Royal Philharmonic Orchestra / James Judd

Brahms: Symphony No. 2; Academic Festival Overture

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The back cover of this Royal Philharmonic Masterworks Audiophile Collection album entices listeners with that claim that the music they are about to hear is "performed with a rarely heard abandon" and that the performances "will thrill and excite you over and over." Regrettably, neither of these claims are especially accurate. Led by conductor James Judd, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is certainly a very able-bodied ensemble. Technically speaking, its performance of Brahms' Second Symphony and the Academic Festival Overture cannot be faulted; intonation is impeccable throughout, as is articulation, balance, and tone. What is severely lacking is the "abandon" and enthusiasm that the album's cover promises to deliver. If anything, Judd's interpretation of this great symphony is extremely safe and predictable. The first movement is quite slow and reserved and you can almost hear the orchestra yearning to push forward. The inner movements are about what one would expected with regards to tempo, but by the finale, Judd again seems to be holding back the orchestra's reins. Dynamics are equally reserved and lacking in the explosive impact Brahms allows for. The self-proclaimed "audiophile" sound quality of the album is dull and listless. While acceptable as an introduction to this symphony, this album is not an ideal choice for veteran listeners seeking to expand their collections.

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