Music critic Tom Manoff has studied and written about Beethoven's symphonies for years. Lately, though, he's felt that he's been neglecting some of them, so he grabbed a collection of CDs and set out to right that wrong.

(Soundbite of Beethoven's "Symphony No. 3 'Eroica'")

TOM MANOFF: Sound familiar? This is the opening theme from Beethoven's "Eroica," his "Symphony No. 3." And what about this?

(Soundbite of Beethoven's "Symphony No. 5")

MANOFF: Right. The opening of Beethoven's "Symphony No. 5," perhaps the most famous notes he ever composed. And here's some music from the seventh.

(Soundbite of Beethoven's "Symphony No. 7")

MANOFF: This variation theme from the "Seventh Symphony" is one of Beethoven's most popular melodies. And who hasn't heard the "Ode to Joy" from his "Symphony Number Nine"?

(Soundbite of Beethoven's "Symphony No. 9 'Ode to Joy'")

MANOFF: OK, you've heard the music. And perhaps you noticed the numbers. No question that Beethoven's most popular symphonies have odd numbers. As a student, I studied all the symphonies, but over the years, I've neglected the evens. My easy excuse is that the odd-numbered symphonies are recorded and performed more often. The other excuse is that I've been lazy. Whatever my problem, the only cure was to listen. So music score in hand, I began with "Symphony No. 2."

(Soundbite of Beethoven's "Symphony No. 2")

MANOFF: If I needed proof of what I'd been missing, here it was, the slow movement from the "Second Symphony," one of Beethoven's typically radiant and lyrical themes. Beethoven could be lyrical, but he could also have fun.

(Soundbite of Beethoven's "Symphony No. 4")

MANOFF: This is the scherzo from "Symphony No. 4."

(Soundbite of Beethoven's "Symphony No. 4")

MANOFF: My even-numbered marathon was destined for a hiccup from the start. I decided to skip "Symphony No. 6," known as the "Pastoral" because it's so famous. The eighth was up next. Here's the last movement, a brisk, foot-tapping finale.

(Soundbite of Beethoven's "Symphony No. 8")

MANOFF: This symphonic journey was under the baton of Herbert Bloomstead conducting the Staatskapelle Dresden, a great-sounding rerelease of all the Beethoven symphonies, which I located online for a ridiculous 16 bucks. You may well wonder if I found these even-numbered symphonies as captivating as the others. Well, on that question, I'm taking the fifth. But why not make up your own mind? Take a good listen to all these even-numbered masterpieces. Odds are, you'll like them.

BLOCK: The music is unmistakably Beethoven. Our critic is Tom Manoff.


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