Honour for Bach expert

By Simon Rocker, January 17, 2014
Sir Ralph Kohn

Sir Ralph Kohn

A London philanthropist, who fled Germany as a child, is to be presented with the country’s highest award.

Sir Ralph Kohn, 86, is to receive the Order of Merit at a ceremony at the German Embassy on Tuesday.

It is his passion for Bach in particular which re-established his connection with Leipzig, the city which his family left when he was just four. He is a trustee of the Bach archive there and his name and that of his wife Zahava — who is a survivor of Bergen-Belsen concentration camp — have been etched into the pillars of St Thomas Church, where Bach was a choirmaster.

Sir Ralph said, “After fleeing from Germany in the 1930s, I have subsequently enjoyed excellent relationships with colleagues in Germany in the medical sciences and the arts for many years.

“Above all, the divine music of Johann Sebastian Bach has brought us together. I am deeply honoured to be receiving this special award.”

An embassy spokesman said the Order of Merit was the highest tribute Germany could “pay to individuals for services to the nation.”

Sir Ralph’s family settled in Salford in 1940. He established a successful pharmaceutical business which earned him a Queen’s Award for Industry in 1990 and was knighted four years ago. He is also an accomplished baritone, who has recorded numerous CDs.

Last updated: 5:45am, January 17 2014