English conductor James Judd became well known in the 1990s primarily for his outstanding results with an American regional orchestra and as a youth and chamber orchestra conductor.
He studied at the Trinity College of Music in London from 1967 to 1971. His piano instructor was Alfred Kitchin, and he took conducting from Bernard Keefe. He was accepted for training at the London Opera Centre. He has retained his interest in opera and frequently conducts them, though he has gained his main reputation and has been most often recorded as an orchestral conductor.
Judd became assistant to Lorin Maazel, music director of the Cleveland Orchestra, and worked with him there from 1973 to 1975. In 1978 he returned to Europe at the request of Claudio Abbado. One of Abbado's favorite projects was the new European Community Youth Orchestra, and in 1978 Abbado appointed Judd its associate music director. He has remained associated with the European Community Youth Orchestra, and in 1990 became its honorary artistic director.
In 1987, he became the music director of the Florida Philharmonic, a post he held until 2001. This orchestra is ranked as a regional orchestra, but he built its quality and polish to the level of a major orchestra. Although its home concerts are in a variety of auditoriums in Miami-Dade, Brouward, and Palm Beach Counties — the warm south Atlantic coast area of Florida, location of several affluent cities in addition to Miami and Miami Beach — it is praised for a remarkable consistency of tone. Judd's performance with the FSO of Mahler's Symphony No. 1 was rated the "Best New Mahler Recording of the Year" by the international Gustav Mahler Society and received several awards and other recognition as a "best recording" from several sources. Channel Magazine named him as "one of the 25 most influential men in South Florida," known for his efforts to promote classical music, including frequent appearances on local FM radio stations. He instituted outreach programs such as "Beethoven by the Beach" and his Community Tours, a series of free concerts in unusual venues.
Judd frequently has led productions of the English National Opera and was, from 1993-1996, artistic director of the Greater Miami Opera. He has also conducted at the Glyndebourne Festival Opera.
In 1999, he became music director of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, the first to hold that title in the orchestra's 50-year history. As such, he appeared on an international 2000 millennium telecast with soprano Kiri Te Kanawa. He has conducted several world premieres, including Michael Nyman's Saxophone Concerto and Gareth Farr's Hikoi, with percussionist Evelyn Glennie as soloist. His debut appearance at the BBC Proms with the Concertgebouw came in August 2005. Judd has amassed quite a catalog of recordings, including The Very Best of Elgar (2006), John Antill's Corroboree (2008), and Zemlinsky's Mermaid (2009).