Morris Kahn

1925-2014


A civil engineer by training, born near Vilnius, his uncle and Lithuanian relatives perishing in the Holocaust, Moshe Kahan was a one-off. Warm, generous, wise, tolerant. South African. Last of a line. Founder of Kahn & Averill, 'old school' London publishing at its most imaginatively motivated, he was responsible, among many passions, for taking on the early books of Ronald Stevenson, Malcolm MacDonald and Jim Samson. Ruth Davis reminds me that he was 'a kind man of broad and discerning vision, with a gentle humour and without bitterness'. He introduced me to enlightening people ... to Jews and 'fellow travellers' ... to exotics like Carola and Miron Grindea ... to Judith who died young ... to Reg Hollingdale who liked his Bruckner loud and got me into Schopenhauer and Nietzsche. We'd meet at concerts, the prettiest of women on his arm, discrete aftershave about his person. Home was 21 Pennard Mansions, Goldhawk Road, a nicotine-impregnated flat-cum-office, Edwardian/Georgian vintage. Whenever I'd come to stay he'd throw a key into the courtyard below, a funnelled sanctum of geraniums, racing green shadows and trickles of rain darkening the brick-work, ghostly legions beyond tramping Silchester Way into sunset. He never ate much, coughing incessantly through the night. Raggle taggle shelves harboured a galaxy of titles from Bernac, Perlemuter, Marguerite Long and Neuhaus to the landmark Yehudi Menuhin Music Guides, from Ronald Smith on Alkan to Vusumazulu Credo Mutwa's Indaba, My Children. We discussed projects that rarely happened. A few though did. Knowing of my interest in calligraphy, he got me to write out the examples for Ernö Lendvai's Béla Bartók: An Analysis of His Music (1971); and, during my Kensington days at the Institute of Armenian Music, I got him to publish Vrej Nersessian's Essays on Armenian Music (1978). Keeping his violin on top of a stained upright that had seen better days, he'd learnt music in Paris some time after the war, following a spell building bridges in Israel. I don't know when nor with whom. Morris's past rarely came up in conversation. We'd play Mozart and Beethoven sonatas, the E minor being one memory, the Spring another, never quite in tune but full of feeling ...

5 September 2014 rev August 2021


The flat, three bedrooms leasehold, was sold for £620,000 in September 2015.

Obituary by Reginald Massey, friend and author from the seventies, The Guardian, 19 June 2014.