Edward Greenfield, a much-loved Gramophone critic for 55 years, has died

Gramophone Thu 2nd July 2015

Born July 3, 1928; died July 1, 2015

Edward Greenfield

Edward Greenfield

Ted, as he was known to everyone aside from his readers (and for generations of Gramophone readers he was ‘EG’) was born in Westcliff-on-Sea in Essex. His father was a labour exchange manager, who had met Ted’s mother, a clerk, through his work. After attending Westcliff High School for Boys, and following two years of National Service (during which time he formed a life-long friendship with another great Gramophone critic, John Steane) he went up to Trinity Hall, Cambridge, where he further nurtured his love for music as well as becoming involved in politics, both of the Cambridge Union and the Labour party variety. 

He began his journalistic career in 1953 as a political writer for the Manchester Guardian, taking up reviewing recordings for the paper in 1955 (he was later appointed the Guardian’s chief music critic in 1977, retiring in 1993). In 1960 he was invited by Gramophone's editor Anthony Pollard and senior reviewer Alec Robertson to start reviewing for these pages - thus began a relationship with the magazine which saw him become one of its longest serving contributors. His first Gramophone review was of Schubert's Great C major Symphony, from the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Charles Munch. Subsequent writing was to encompass books about Puccini, the soprano Joan Sutherland, and the conductor, composer and pianist André Previn, and for many decades he was also co-author of the Penguin Guide

Throughout his long career Ted met, interviewed, and formed friendships with many of the leading figures from the music world (and from politics too, including Prime Minister Edward Heath), many of whom were to feature in his book published last year Portrait Gallery - A life in Classical Music. This, together with his regular attendance at recording sessions - including, for example, that of Jacqueline du Pré’s classic EMI recording of the Elgar Cello Concerto - gave him a valuable insight into the workings of the recording industry and the people behind-the-scenes, which richly informed so much of what he wrote. In 1993 he was given a Special Achievement Award by Gramophone for his contribution to music criticism, and the following year he received an OBE. 

Ted’s recent book opened with what he termed his Credo, his description of the approach he followed throughout his life as a music journalist, in which he argued that the role of a critic (a word, incidentally, that he felt unfortunately loaded, preferring, if one were to have existed, ‘a crisp word meaning “one who appreciates”’) was to encourage others to share in music’s enjoyment, to be ‘an evangelist’. As he put it: ‘If anyone has been encouraged to go out to listen to music after reading what I have written, that for me is the response I cherish most of all.’ Perhaps his greatest legacy is that, on so many countless occasions, for so many countless people, that has undoubtably been true. 

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