FELIX APRAHAMIAN, who died last Saturday afternoon, aged 90, was a music
critic who wrote for the Church Times from 1992 to 2000, after he had
retired from a distinguished Fleet Street career.
His writing career had begun in the musical press in 1931; from 1937 he
wrote for the nationals. From 1948 until 1969, he was deputy to the music
critic of The Sunday Times, who for most of those years was Ernest
Newman (he edited two books of Newman’s criticism). Aprahamian wrote elegantly,
concisely, and with a deep knowledge of and response to the organ repertoire in
particular. In his Church Times pieces, he would throw in
recollections of some of the leading musicians of the century.
These came partly from his work with music publishers, and with the London
Philharmonic Orchestra, of which he had been assistant secretary and concert
director. It might be easier to list the composers with whom he had no personal
acquaintance, than those with whom he had. He knew the great Frenchmen Poulenc,
Messiaen, Duruflé, Widor, and Vierne, for example; the Hungarian Bartók; and
the English composers of mid-century. He was President of the Delius Society.
He was of assistance to musicians such as Karl Rankl who had to leave the
Continent after the rise of Nazism.
During the Second World War, as part of the war effort, Aprahamian
organised, from the office of the Philharmonic, a series of concerts of French
music. One of the stories that he told was of having to get permission from the
Free French in Algeria to waive the copyright on Fauré’s Requiem, and
setting up an English publishing company, the Normandy Press, so that it could
be performed by a choir in Luton — which began the work’s huge post-war
By the time he began writing for the Church Times, he was a grand
old man with a great store of anecdotes, the perfect castaway for
Desert Island Discs. I once heard him explain why he had kept up his
membership of the Athenaeum: “I was proposed by Elgar, and seconded by George
He was a great giver of parties in his house in north London, which had room
for a full-size pipe organ; lucky guests would hear it played by the organist
David Liddle, to whom Aprahamian was both friend and mentor. His involvement in
musical affairs had continued to be wide-ranging, as he heaped up lectureships
and honorary degrees and fellowships: it entailed much travel, and an
occasional refusal of an invitation to review an event because he had helped to
He began reviewing for the Church Times when John Whale found
himself short-handed through illness. His attitude was entirely professional.
No matter how small the space offered, or how humble the position of the
review, he would say: “Just a few well-chosen words? When do you want them?”
They would appear punctually, bearing the scars of his fax machine. His
housekeeper would call him to the phone to make sense of them.
His reviews were always gracious, and designed to interest the readers in
the music. If he thought a concert programme was worth covering, he would
undertake the journey despite the difficulties of old age.
He left his vast collection of music and his personal papers to the Royal
College of Organists.