Remembering Charles Hopkins

By Alistair Hinton

Charles Hopkins was a most interesting character indeed; his background seems to have been kept a strict secret and he was a major authority on Godowsky, Classical Persian literature, Medtner, the history of the piano and pianists and many other and diverse things, besides being a consummate linguist, translator, critic and mathematician. He taught piano for some years in Manchester at the University and Chetham’s School.

He worked from time to time with John Ogdon and was a veritable walking encyclopædia, though at the same time the very opposite of a stuffy intellectual and light-years from a (no-)point-proving overbearing one. He elevated the act of hiding one’s light under a bushel to an art-form in its own right (for one bushel, read several megatons in his case).

As a consequence of this and some long-term personal difficulties in his family life (which, like most things, he kept very strictly to himself), his career never developed as it could and should have done; indeed, his liner notes for his own recording of Sorabji’s Gulistān and his immaculate and brilliant translations of that oh-so-elusive French symbolist poetry set by Sorabji that appear in Elizabeth Farnum’s CD of his songs for soprano are ample evidence that he could have successfully pursued any one or two of a number of careers outside music altogether.