The inimitable Edward (Ted) Greenfield

So Ted is gone. Died a few days ago. I can hardly believe it. Two things have happened this week that recalled musical epiphanies. One was reading a review in the November 1962 Gramophone about the first ‘Heifetz-Piatigorsky’ concerts box – Denis Stevens was the critic and I was moved to the core by his wise words and the power of his enthusiasm – and the other was Ted’s death. Years ago I’d wait impatiently for the special monthly editions of the Third Programme’s Music Magazine (on a Sunday morning, as I recall), introduced by John Lade, when Ted’s voice would have me glued to the speaker, the sheer relish with which he expressed everything he said, his sentences warm, engaging, vocally inimitable, rather like the records he was reviewing. Already a fan of ‘the Third’, I was soon an avid Gramophone reader and enjoyed Ted on the page just as much as listening to him. Later on, when I edged into the reviewing business myself, he was always very supportive and I was never shy about telling him how much of an influence he’d been over the years. I’m glad I did at least that.

Regarding that Heifetz set by the way, Duncan Druce and I are exchanging views about it in a forthcoming issue of Gramophone.

But regarding Ted .. when did you first read him and how did you react?

14 thoughts on “The inimitable Edward (Ted) Greenfield

  1. Kim Sommerschield

    Wholeheartedly echo your sentiments Rob. A gentle man for gentler times, EG was responsible for almost my entire early LP collection. Critical objectivity is a myth, but EG was that rare critic who was objective about his own feelings. He veritably elevated opinion into knowledge.

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    1. Thank you so much Kim. I recall with great affection presentations that we did at Farringdon Records years ago, chatting on stage to a responsive and grateful audience, playing CDs, sharing – which was what Ted was so good at. ‘A gentle man for gentler times’, how very true when you think that nowadays so many merely carp and deride, simply for the joy of the kill. Bloodlust rather than criticism. Ted looked for the positive and although not averse, on occasion, to voicing negative views would never do it just for the sake of making an impact.

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    2. Thanks Johan. Yes, those World Service programmes were excellent. I think now of looking at his vast archive, his discs – vinyl or compact – part of a pooled memory no longer with us. It’s strange isn’t it how a collection too becomes bereft of life when the ‘spirit’ that brought it together is no longer there.

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  2. Johan Herrenberg

    A Dutch fan here, who is saddened by this loss. I heard Edward Greenfield regularly on the BBC World Service during the 1980s, and always sought out his Gramophone reviews. I can still hear his voice – calm, gentle, the voice of reason. He understood music very well and had a great ability to communicate his insights. RIP.

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  3. John J. Davis

    Hello Rob, We shall miss Ted enormously, I always loved his reviews, he was diplomatic when having to criticize & full of enthusiasm when the music & recording was to his liking. I’ve met Ted on many occasions & will never forget the stimulating conversations. Ted, rest in peace & we’ll never forget you. John J. Davis.

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    1. Yes John, ‘diplomatic’ is the word. And the great thing is that he was one of those reviewers where you could tell from the way a piece was written whether or not you were likely to enjoy the recording under review. Ted’s opinion was less of the essence than his ability to convey what the listening experience would be like. You could enjoy reading him but respectfully disagree with him as well. That takes writing skill.

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  4. Like you, Rob, Ted was genuine and generous, full of life, good sense and good cheer. He loved music and he loved people who love music. Now he’s gone, we hope and trust you’ll continue to inspire and guide us for many years. Very best wishes, Nick

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  5. Robert

    Dear Mr. Cowan,

    I’ve just (happily) discovered your blog and I’ve spent an hour reading various discussions with considerable interest. I first read EG, as my reference shows, in Gramophone, but he became especially associated for me with The Penguin Stereo Record Guide, which I bought in various versions from 1976 through the 1990s. In reading his Guardian obituary, I was especially struck by the quotation in which he explained how he felt critics should be _positive_, and that aspect of his commentary resonated with me. I’ve always been most influenced by the critics who shared their warm appreciation for something. I owe so many discoveries to reviews by good critics! With that in mind, I’d also like to mention that I just stumbled on the archived podcasts of the BBC 3 “Building a Library” program, and your discussion of the Slavonic Dances was terrific: warmly appreciative of the various merits of different performances, discriminating in comparing the strengths and weaknesses, and enormously informative. I live in the US, far from full classical radio, and I rarely can catch the excellent review programs available from US stations, which, for copyright reasons, can’t be archived. So the “Building a Library” broadcasts have proven a gold mine! I’m just sorry that I can’t get access to your program on the Shostakovich 15th. I’m also a fan of that Sanderling/Cleveland recording!

    I hope to check in from time to time and join the fascinating conversations.

    Warm good wishes,

    Robert

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    1. Thanks Robert! Great to have you here and I look forward to future postings from you. The next Building Library I’m working on is Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony, due to be aired, if all goes according to plan, early in September. Very best wishes. Rob

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  6. Ted might have departed, but Rob reigns on as someone who treasures and celebrates great recordings from the past (and present when appropriate!) I wish every other R3 presenter was so mindful of the performer. Too many of your colleagues neglect to tell us who’s playing/conducting/singing until; the end of a piece.

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    1. Thanks Peter. That’s very generous of you. To be fair to my colleagues, ‘golden oldies’ are among my specialist loves so I suppose I would lean in their direction. Best, Rob.

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