An artist of outstanding versatility, British born conductor 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 Vienna to Tokyo attest to his rapport with audiences and musicians alike.
In his distinguished career, James Judd has conducted the Berlin Philharmonic, Rotterdam Philharmonic, Orchestre National de France, Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig, Royal Philharmonic, London Symphony, the English Chamber Orchestra, BBC Symphony, NHK Symphony Orchestra of Tokyo and the orchestras of Dallas, St. Louis, Baltimore and Montreal, among others. Considered one of the pre-eminent interpreters of British orchestral music, Judd’s recording of Elgar’s Symphony No. 1 with the Halle Orchestra is still a highly regarded reference standard among 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, where he is Music Director Emeritus. Recordings of works by Elgar, Vaughan Williams, Beethoven,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 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. An accomplished operatic conductor, Judd 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 1993-1996 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. A graduate of London’s Trinity College of Music, Mr. Judd came to international attention as the Assistant Conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra, a post he accepted at the invitation of Lorin Maazel. Two years later, he returned to Europe after being appointed Associate Music Director of the European Community Youth Orchestra by Claudio Abbado.
James Judd served as Music Director of the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra for 14 years. 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 Walton, Bernstein and Mahler. The measure of the orchestra’s artistic growth during James Judd’s tenure is best summed up by music critic Tim Smith. Of a performance by Judd and the Philharmonic of 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.”
During his eight years as Music Director of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, James Judd brought the ensemble to a new level of visibility and international renown. In addition to recording, Judd led the NZSO on its first tour of the major concert halls of Europe, including the Concertgebouw and the Royal Albert Hall where it performed at the BBC Proms; "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." (The Guardian)
Previous directorships include Principal Guest Conductor of the Orchestre Nationale de Lille (France) and Principal Guest Conductor of the Adelaide Symphony (Australia).
In 2008 James founded the Miami Music Project in 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 Britten’s War Requiem at the Bucharest Festival. He makes his home in the US with his wife and daughter.