Baritone benefactor dies, aged 88

Baritone benefactor dies, aged 88


norman lebrecht

November 13, 2016

The death has been announced of Sir Ralph Kohn, a pharmaceutical manufacturer who, among many other causes, financed John Eliot Gardiner’s Bach Cantata series.

An enthusiastic baritone, he released recordings of Schubert and Schumann Lieder, accompanied by Graham Johnson.

He was an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music and chairman of the Wigmore Hall International Song Competition.



  • John Borstlap says:

    I happened to know Sir Ralph, a most amiable man and a keen Bach enthusiast. His increasing interest in the spirituality of B’s music demonstrated a real understanding of what is ‘between the notes’……. very sorry to hear of his passing.

  • A.C.Onductor says:

    Sir Ralph’s recorded legacy on CD goes far beyond the stated Schubert and Schumann Lieder: He sang Beethoven, Mahler and some much earlier repertoire. Exactly 30 years ago I had the great pleasure of working with him as conductor/ harpsichordist on a CD of ‘Arie Antiche’ – Italian love songs from the period 1600-1700, sumptuously arranged for string orchestra ( ‘members of the English Chamber Orchestra’) by another wonderful recently departed musician, Fred Tomlinson, also aged 88 at the time of his passing.
    Ralph, with his warm but light baritone voice, was a delight to work with, always receptive to well-intentioned ‘positive criticism’ with regard to pitching and rhythm.
    You could always sense that he really loved the music that he sang.
    I would have been delighted to make another CD with him; I was subsequently upset to learn that although he had asked for me as conductor on his follow-up CD, he was told by an ‘administrative person’ that I wasn’t ‘willing and available’ for that project. This was untrue.
    R.I.P. Sir Ralph Kohn.

  • Mrs Margaret Steinitz, London Bach Society says:

    Sir Ralph Kohn’s greatest Bach legacy is the support he has given through his Foundation to the Bach cantata series at the Royal Academy of Music, now about to enter its ninth year. On completion, the series will be the first Bach cantata cycle to have been presented in a British conservatoire. Therefore, Sir Ralph has enabled a platform to be created for a succession of young musicians to perfect their art by studying and performing some of the most challenging and inspiring music ever written. RIP Ralph.

    • John Borstlap says:

      I attended one of these cantata concerts and was much impressed by the quality of the performers and the stylistic approach. It was delightful.