Richard Freed, Noted Music Journalist And Annotator, Dies At 93

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Richard Freed, distinguished music critic and advocate of national arts funding, has died at 93. (Photo by John Lambert)

The Music Critics Association of North America has received word of the death of esteemed longtime member Richard Freed, who died at his home in Rockville, Md., on New Year’s Day. He was 93.

Freed, who was born in Chicago, grew up in Tulsa, Okla., reading about music and records with the 1941 Victor catalog as a bedside book. He studied at the University of Chicago where he received his Bachelor of Philosophy degree in 1947.

He wrote and broadcast on music for some 60 years, during which time he served on the music staffs of Saturday Review and The New York Times and reviewed recordings for National Public Radio and radio stations in Chicago and Washington. He had long relationships with Stereo Review (for which, in addition to monthly reviews and feature articles, he wrote a separately published annual rating of recordings called “The Basic Repertory”), The Washington Star, The Washington Post, and other newspapers and magazines in the U.S. and U.K. He also programmed and annotated a series of recordings for the Smithsonian Institution.

Freed was assistant to the director of the University of Rochester’s Eastman School of Music in the 1960s, and for 17 years he was executive director of the Music Critics Association of North America.

Following a brief stint as public relations director for the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, he created and hosted a 17-year series of broadcasts of that orchestra, and a shorter one for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. He was program annotator for those two orchestras as well as the Philadelphia Orchestra, the National Symphony Orchestra, the Houston Symphony, and the Flint (Mich.) Symphony Orchestra. His concert notes covered the equivalent of more than 100 seasons. He also annotated about 500 recordings for various labels.

In retirement, Freed wrote an online series called “Keepers,” for the SoundStage Network, and reviewed recordings and audio gear for The Audio Beat. He received two ASCAP/Deems Taylor Awards, a Grammy and, for work in the service of music, was made Knight First Class of the Order of the Lion of Finland. He is survived by his wife Louise of Kensington, Md., and their daughter Erica of Los Angeles. 

Services will be private. A memorial observation will be scheduled. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions are encouraged to:

The Music Critics Association of North America at 2 Railroad Avenue, #239, Glyndon, MD 21071-7514-64; the National Symphony Orchestra; National Public Radio; or the symphony orchestra of your choice.