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Isadore Freed (Composer, Arranger)

Born: March 26, 1900 - Brest-Litovsk, Russia
Died: November 10, 1960 - Rockville Center, New York, USA

The Russian-bormn American composer and teacher, Isadore Freed, went to the USA with his family at the age of 3. The family settled in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Freed studied music formally at the University of Pennsylvania where he earned a Bachelor's in music in 1918, at the age of 18. In 1923, Freed spent five months in Berlin studying piano with Josef Weiss.

Isadore Freed made his compositional debut in 1926 at a concert sponsored by the Friends of Chamber Music in Philadelphia. The program included a Sonata for Violin and Piano, a Suite for Viola and Piano, his first String Quartet, and a Rhapsody for Clarinet, String Quartet, and Piano. The Rhapsody was performed three more times that year in New York City, first at Aeolian Hall, then at Columbia University and finally at the Brooklyn Museum. That same year, Freed helped to found the Philadelphia Society for Contemporary Music.

In 1928, Isadore Freed moved to Paris for a period of five years, during which time he studied composition with renowned teachers Earnest Bloch, Vincent D'Indy and Nadia Boulanger. In 1935, a year after returning to the USA, Freed founded the Philadelphia Chamber Orchestra and Composers' Laboratory. The Laboratory was a unique project that allowed young composers to submit new works to be read by the Chamber Orchestra in a private rehearsal. Many of the compositions submitted to the Laboratory were performed as part of the Chamber Orchestra's annual concert series.

Aside from his compositional activities, Isadore Freed was also involved in music education. Starting in 1937, he joined the music faculty at Temple University and accepted a post as organist and choirmaster at Temple Keneseth Israel in Philadelphia. In 1944, Freed headed the Composition Department at the Julius Harrt Musical Foundation in Hartford, Connecticut. Two years later, he was commissioned by the Harrt Foundation to write the opera, “The Princess and the Vagabond,” which was premiered on May 13, 1948 by the Foundation's Opera Department.

In the early years of Isadore Freed’s tenure at Knesseth Israel he began to experiment with composing music for the synagogue. In 1939 he published his first liturgical work, the ‘Sacred Service for Shabbat Morning.’ In 1951, Freed was hired as a Harmony instructor at the newly established Hebrew Union School of Sacred Music. Freed expanded his course offerings to include a class devoted to Jewish modes. In 1958, Freed published the treatise, Harmonizing the Jewish Modes, in which he offers a systematic harmonic language by which to understand the Jewish modes as they have been treated by a variety of synagogue composers (e.g. Hirsch Weintraub, A.W Binder, David Nowakowsky, Adolph Katchko, Heinrich Schalit and more). While rooting the Jewish modes in a Western music theoretical structure, Freed stressed the subtle difference inherent in the Jewish treatment of the synagogue mode. He believed that the synagogue mode, unlike the Western major-minor scale system, was characterized by its non-dominant coloring. His later synagogue compositions include the Hasidic Service (1954), Psalm settings, and a selection from Salamone de Rossi's Ha-shirim asher li-Shelomo arranged as a service for cantor, chorus, and organ (1954). Freed also served as the president of the Jewish Music Forum (1942-1944), and as a member of the Board of Governors for the Jewish Liturgical Society and the Hebrew Union College of Sacred Music.


Dramatic: Operas:
Homo Sum (1930)
The Princess and the Vagabond (Hartford, May 13, 1948)

Vibrations (Philadelphia, 1928)

Jeux de timbres (Paris, 1933)
2 symphonies: No. 1 (1941) and No. 2 for Brass (San Francisco, Feb. 8, 1951)
Appalachian Symphonic Sketches (Chautauqua, New York, July 31, 1946)
Festival Overture (San Francisco, Nov. 14, 1946)
Rhapsody for Trombone and Orch. (radio premiere, New York, Jan. 7, 1951)
Violin Concerto (New York, Nov. 13, 1951)
Cello Concerto (1952)
Concertino for English Horn and Orchestra (1953)

3 string quartets (1931, 1932, 1937)
Trio for Flute, Viola, and Harp (1940)
Triptych for Violin, Viola, Cello, and Piano (1943)
Passacaglia for Cello and Piano (1947)
Quintet for Woodwinds and Horn (1949)
Oboe Sonatina (1954)
piano pieces
organ music

Vocal music


Source: JMRC - Jewish Music Research Centre Website; Baker’s Biographical Dictionary of 20th Century Classical Musicians (1997)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (July 2007)

Isadore Freed: Short Biography | Piano Transcriptions: Works | Recordings

Links to other Sites

JMRC - Jewish Music Research Centre: Isadore Freed



BmL: E. Steinhauer, AJewish Composer by Choice, 1. F.: His Life and Work (N.Y., 1961).

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