The American music critic Richard Freed passed away on New Year's Day 2022, not long after his 93rd birthday. Born in 1928 to Russian immigrant parents, he grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and from a young age showed a great deal of interest in reading and writing about music.
He began writing professionally for the first time in the 1950s and continued for six decades, contributing to publications such as the Washington Post and the New York Times.
Freed was equally good at writing for both the specialist and casual readerships. He contributed a column entitled "The Basic Repertoire" to Stereo Review, which covered over two hundred symphonic works that Freed considered to be at the core of the canon.
Notably, Freed won a Grammy award in 1995 for the liner notes that he wrote for the complete collection of recordings by Jascha Heifetz.
Washington Post writer Tim Page describes Freed as a "courtly, soft-spoken man" who was "a writer many other critics read to learn from".
"There simply was no better program annotator," said Leonard Slatkin, who worked with Freed on program notes while director of both the NSO and the St Louis Symphony. "When the audience arrives for a performance, or these days gets concert information in advance, it is the program book annotator who becomes their guide to the history, content and design of the works that will be performed. Writing for both knowledgeable patrons as well as newcomers is not easy, and Richard was one of the very few who could bridge those two worlds with consummate skill.”
Freed is survived by his wife, Louise Kono, and their daughter Erica Freed. Our condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues at this time.