The New York Times
, July 2003
"A recent box of CD's from the tireless label Naxos contained a new recording of Leonard Bernstein's original score for "West Side Story," with Kenneth Schermerhorn conducting the Nashville Symphony Orchestra, which has lately been riding a wave of successes. Two days later, another Naxos package produced another new recording of Bernstein, including . . . the symphonic dances from "West Side Story."
But before the eyes could glaze over completely, they caught sight of the performers, and attention had to be paid. James Judd conducts the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra, which he directed from 1985 to 2002 but which declared bankruptcy and suspended operations in May. The recording, made in 2001, is not quite a voice from the grave, since at press time a committee was still laboring to raise funds and get the orchestra back on its feet.
It is too easy, with the recent rash of closings of regional orchestras, for those of us in New York and other music capitals to overlook the magnitude of what is being lost. The Florida Philharmonic, the resident professional orchestra of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach Counties, billed itself as Florida's largest performing-arts organization. On the evidence of this recording, it was a fine group, with a bright and cohesive corporate sound. (As usual, the unevennesses and weaknesses show up most in solo passages.)
The opening "Candide" Overture is particularly poignant, for it reveals a band full of life and spirit eagerly responding to Mr. Judd's forward-leaning and even accelerating tempo. But perhaps the most valuable item here is Bernstein's Symphony No. 2, "The Age of Anxiety," a strong work -- alternately atmospheric and excitable, and ultimately carefree -- that is not overrecorded. Jean Louis Steuerman is a deft piano soloist, and the orchestra again does itself proud under Mr. Judd's steady hand.
Both new releases are part of a projected complete recording of Bernstein's music by Naxos, using several conductors and orchestras. It would be gratifying, eventually, to see the Florida Philharmonic back in the mix."