The English conductor, James Judd, is a graduate of Trinity College of Music in London. He came to international attention as the assistant conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra, a post he accepted at the invitation of Lorin Maazel. Four years later he returned to Europe after being appointed Associate Music Director of the European Community Youth Orchestra (European Union Youth Orchestra) by Claudio Abbado, an ensemble with which he continues to serve as an honorary artistic director.
James Judd served as Music Director of the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra for 14 years (1987-2001). His reputation as an orchestra builder was established in Florida as he grew this once small, regional ensemble into the largest performing arts organization in the state. Contemporary programming initiatives, critically acclaimed performances and the development of a hugely successful summer festival marked a period of striking artistic growth for the ensemble, culminating in international recognition for their recordings of William Walton, Leonard Bernstein and Gustav Mahler. However, during his tenure, the orchestra suffered financial problems, and Judd served for 3 months as chairman of the board and donated a portion of his salary to assist the organisation. However, he was also criticised for expensive programming in his concerts. The measure of the orchestra’s artistic growth during his tenure is best summed up by music critic Tim Smith. Of a performance by Judd and the Philharmonic of G. Mahler’s Symphony No. 5, Smith wrote:
“Making the results doubly satisfying is the fact that the Philharmonic can withstand direct comparison with the San Francisco Symphony, which played Mahler’s Fifth in the same hall three weeks earlier. Not long ago, the Philharmonic’s playing was light-years away from that of a major orchestra like the San Francisco. On Tuesday, that distance could be measured in mere miles.”
James Judd served as Music Director of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (NZSO), the first NZSO conductor with that title, from 1999 to 2007. Within a period of eight years, he has brought the orchestra to a new level of visibility and international acclaim through appearances at the 2000 Summer Sydney Olympic Arts Festival, the 2003 Auckland International Arts Festival, the Osaka Festival of International Orchestras as well as a specially televised Millennium Concert with Kiri Te Kanawa as soloist. In addition to recording, he led the orchestra on its first-ever tour of the major concert halls of Europe, including the Concertgebouw, culminating with a debut appearance at the BBC Proms in August 2005 at the the Royal Albert Hall: The Guardian wrote: "the players sounded absolutely on top of the piece, and Judd's astute conducting charted it's structure with a sure touch. The result gained in concentration and dynamism right through to the resplendent close." Judd now holds the title of Music Director Emeritus of the NZSO.
An artist of outstanding versatility, James Judd is sought after for his passionate musicianship and his charismatic presence both on and off the podium. Known for his extraordinarily communicative style and bold, imaginative programming, repeat engagements in concert halls from Salzburg (Mozarteum) and Vienna (Musikverein) to Tokyo attest to his rapport with audiences and musicians alike. He continues to conduct regularly with all of the major British ensembles, including the London Philharmonic Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Hallé Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, BBC National Orchestra of Wales, and English Chamber Orchestra. In his distinguished career, he has also conducted such orchestras as the Berliner Philharmoniker, Flemish Radio Orchestra, Orchestre National de France, Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Monte Carlo Symphony Orchestra, Prague Symphony Orchestra, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, Mozarteum Orchestra of Salzburg, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, NHK Symphony Orchestra of Tokyo. Wiener Symphoniker, and Zürich Tonhalle Orchestra,. He was co-founder of the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, which he has led on tours throughout the USA, the Far East and Europe. In North and South America he is a frequent and much-admired guest conductor, having appeared with the orchestras of Baltimore Symphony Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Montreal Symphomy, Ottawa Symphony Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, Seattle Symphony Orchestra, Utah Symphony Orchestra, and Vancouver Symphony Orchestra.
An accomplished operatic conductor, James Judd made his USA opera debut in 1988 conducting Don Giovanni for the Florida Grand Opera. In the UK he has appeared with the English National Opera, Wexford Festival and Glyndebourne Opera Festival in productions of Il Trovatore, La Traviata, Rigoletto, Il Barbiere di Siviglia, Le Nozze di Figaro and La Cenerentola. From 1993 to 1996 Judd served as Artistic Director of the Florida Grand Opera where he conducted works including Don Giovanni, Un Ballo en Maschera, La Boheme, Madama Butterfly and the Turn of the Screw. In addition to staged productions, Judd has conducted concert performances of Tannhauser, Fidelio and La Clemenza di Tito. His operatic recordings include the complete operas of Meyerbeer and Donizetti.
In September 2003, James Judd had been named the next Music Director of the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra. However, in April 2004, the MPO terminated the agreement with Judd without public explanation, and Judd never took up the post of the MPO's music director. His directorships have also included Principal Guest Conductor of the Orchestre Nationale de Lille (France) and Principal Guest Conductor of the Adelaide Symphony (Australia).
During the 2006-2007 season, James Judd appeared with the KBS Symphony Seoul, in addition to performances with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. He returned to the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the NHK Symphony Orchestra Tokyo, and made his début with the Hamburger Symphoniker. His other successes include a triumphant return to the Haydn Festival Eisenstadt with the Austro-Hungarian Haydn Orchestra; guest performances with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and BBC National Orchestra of Wales; and highly acclaimed engagements with the KBS Symphony Orchestra of Seoul, New Japan Philharmonic Tokyo, Orchestre National de Lille at the Cite de la Musique Paris, and Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra.
In 2008 James Judd founded the Miami Music Projectin South Florida. Underwritten by a generous grant from the John and James L. Knight Foundation, the Miami Music Project ( MMP) provides education, instruction and performance opportunities for hundreds of children from diverse and underserved communities throughout the city. Inspired by Venezuela’s El Sistema model, the MMP has opened academies for musical instruction in the Doral and Little Haiti communities of Miami, with plans underway for expansion into Little Havana and Liberty City. Additionally, the MMP continues it’s mission to give the older and most talented young musicians an opportunity to rehearse and perform the masterworks of the orchestral repertoire with the establishment of ESMIA (El Sistema Miami) Youth Orchestra.
James Judd’s conducting schedule in the upcoming season will include appearances with the Hungarian National Philharmonic Orchestra, the Metropolitan Orchestra of Tokyo, Wiener Concert Verein, the Slovenian National Philharmonic, the Milwaukee Symphony and performances of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem at the Bucharest Festival.
Considered one of the pre-eminent interpreters of British orchestral music, James Judd’s recording of Edward Elgar’s Symphony No. 1 with the Hallé Orchestra is still a highly regarded reference standard among E. Elgar lovers today. He has amassed an extensive discography on the Naxos label, including an unprecedented number in partnership with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. Recordings of works by Edward Elgar, Ralph Vaughan Williams, L.v. Beethoven, Leonard Bernstein, Copland, Gershwin and many others received critical acclaim. A champion of the works of Gustav Mahler, Judd’s performances of this composer have been praised the world over. His recording of G. Mahler’s Symphony No.1 was awarded the Gold Medal by France’s Diapason as well as the Toblacher Komponierhauschen for the best Mahler recording of the year. Judd’s orchestral recordings are also featured on the Decca, EMI and Philips labels.
James Judd and his wife Valerie, a former member of the New World Symphony Orchestra, have a daughter. They mmake their home in the USA.