Interview with James Judd (conductor)
JAMES JUDD is the music director of the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Principal Guest Conductor of the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and is one of the most sought after Guest Conductors in the world today. His most recent release on Naxos is Frank Bridge's Enter Spring (8.557167), released in July 2004.
How important a place do you think Aaron Copland holds in Amercian classical music?
Copland holds a pre-eminent position in the US. His music reflects and radiates so many faces and feelings, places and players, on the great North American continent. Listening to his music, images appear as they may about England when we experience Elgar. But of course, as with Elgar, there is a much greater universal message which is sensitive to and describing something infinitely more all embracing. His music has the sophistication of simplicity, and in the same way as all great composers, his is music for the Common Man. Thus he holds a justly revered position in the US, but increasingly and justifiably so, also throughout the rest of the world.
Is there a reason why Copland's Symphony No. 3 is not often recorded?
I am really not sure how many recordings there are currently. I can say that perhaps one of the reasons there are not more is because there exists a remarkable recording with Bernstein, which the composer must have dearly loved. But I hope that, being such a great piece, other conductors can bring out
some particular qualities through their own study and reaction to this score. In defence of daring to record a work that has been so beautifully recorded before, I believe that no performance of major works can ever reveal the whole picture.
In your opinion, are there any major omissions from the recorded repertoire of Amercian classical music?
There are many neglected works of the more famous, Bernstein for example-his
symphonies, works like Halil, the Mass...works that can be reassessed through
more recordings. Then there are fascinating symphonies by Roy Harris other than his third, and music by Virgil Thompson and William Schumann. Hopefully more recordings of music by Elliot Carter. Well, the list can go on and on, each will have his or her favourite area of neglect. The important thing about recording wider repertoire is to include works that might not honestly be first rank masterpieces, which might not get outings in the concert hall very often, but which are full of interesting ideas. After all, even some Mozart is probably more available on recordings than in the concert hall.
American repertoire with an orchestra from New Zealand? Does this matter?
It is very important for non-American orchestras to perform and record American music. Apart from the obvious questions Sibelius only in Finland? Mahler only in Austria? etc. this music is truly international. By the way, the wonderful NZSO boasts, in addition to the extraordinary New Zealand musicians, many nationalities including first rate American musicians. There is a tradition there of playing American music and also recording it. There is also something to be said for the fresh approach of an orchestra who meet this repertoire somewhat less frequently. When I recorded Mahler 1st Symphony with the Florida Philharmonic there were probably some eyebrows raised in Vienna, but it did rather well!
What advice would you give to young conductors today at the start of their careers?
You should not think of a career. Just be in love with the music, and be in love with sharing music and working with musicians. Do not expect anyone to offer opportunities, make them yourself. Go and listen to rehearsals of the great orchestras and conductors. Live with scores, be inquisitive about everything. Realise that with luck, after the age of 60 you may be getting the hang of it! Be self critical. Strive to always be honest, any orchestra can tell if you are not. Remember, the only geniuses are the composers.