almost 60 years Felix Aprahamian, who died, aged 90, on January 15, was
a key figure in European musical life and a mainstay of the galaxy of
critical talent gathered at The Sunday Times .
He joined the paper in 1948 as deputy music critic to Ernest Newman and contributed regular reviews up to the 1990s.
Felix was an irrepressible enthusiast as much as a newspaperman, a
compulsive communicator who wanted to share his delight in every form
of activity with the widest possible audience.
Like all good
critics, he sought achievements that he could praise rather than
failures. His eagerness to find new talent took him all round the
country when many critics on national papers were reluctant to venture
beyond Potter’s Bar.
His reviews were given particular authority
by the fact that he spent the war years as concert director of the
London Philharmonic Orchestra and then worked for Sir Thomas Beecham,
who affectionately nicknamed him the “Abyssinian Bishop”.
shared the great conductor’s sympathy for a Yellow Book dress code,
delivering his typewritten copy to the paper’s offices, resplendent
with furtrimmed opera cloak and engraved cane, which were reinforced by
a trim goatee and a corpulence reminiscent of Rossini. This exotic
appearance was allied to an idiosyncratic relationship with the English
language but in fact Felix was a native Londoner. Born in 1914 he spent
his life in an Edwardian villa in Muswell Hill inherited from his
father, an Armenian carpet importer.
The splendour concealed no
jot of superiority. Felix was entirely free of arrogance, keen to press
his voluminous knowledge on the most naÃ¯ve enquirer.
grumbled about covering three, often four, concerts in his weekly 500
words, though he did once ask to be let off attending the fifth new
production of Mozart’s Cosi fan tutte in a season.
He was a
lifelong admirer of Delius and a particular authority on 20th century
French music and works for the organ. The first brought him the
friendship of composers like Olivier Messiaen and Henri Dutilleux,
while the latter resulted in him being consulted on the restoration of
many important European instruments as well as the bequest, from the
celebrated blind French organist AndrÃ© Marchal, of his own chamber
organ. Installed in grandeur amid the exquisite Japanese garden Felix
created at Muswell Hill it became the heart of his much-loved ‘pleasure