Charles Hopkins, pianist

Photograph of Charles Hopkins (© Chris Rice)
© Chris Rice

Charles Hopkins was first introduced to the music of Sorabji by John Ogdon, with whom he studied in London in the 1960s, and his 1994 recording of Gulistān has earned widespread critical acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic.

As well as his wide-ranging pianistic interests — he contributed more than twenty articles to The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 2nd edition — he has also devoted himself to a number of academic pursuits and has produced monographs on a range of topics including: The Legacy of Alfonso VI: Leonese Hegemony in 12th Century Spain; Sung Elements in the Ink-Painting of the Muromachi Period; and Johann Gottlieb Fichte and the Metaphysics of the Absolute. In addition to his work in the fields of mediæval history, oriental art, and philosophy, he also pursued studies in mathematics, in particular probability theory and combinatorial aspects of the I-Ching, while his involvement in the area of diachronic linguistics is reflected in his practical work as translator, most notably of Giuseppe Rovani’s epic I Cento Anni, part of a series, Scapigliatura and the Veristi, in which he planned to explore the work of the various literary movements which arose in the wake of the Risorgimento. He has also produced English versions of the original French texts to Sorabji’s songs.

Music and the piano have, however, always represented his principal sphere of interest and, in addition to having made a detailed study of the manuscripts of several large-scale unpublished works by Sorabji, he has undertaken painstaking research for forthcoming books on Godowsky and Medtner, as well as an exhaustive examination of many areas of the keyboard literature which he believed to have been unjustly neglected. Among these, works requiring the utmost physical and intellectual endurance on the part of the performer hold a particular fascination for him and feature prominently in an extensive repertoire which embraces on the one hand the Elizabethan Virginalists and on the other the Sonatas of Pierre Boulez. He was engaged on a long-term project to produce a typeset edition of one of Sorabji’s largest piano works, the Piano Sonata No. 5, Opus Archimagicum.

Charles has contributed articles, essays and reviews to various journals including International Piano Quarterly, International Record Review, International Piano, The Musical Times and The Musical Quarterly.

Charles Hopkins was also a chess problemist and, under the nom de guerre ‘Ilex’, a compiler of The Listener Crossword, published in The Times.

Charles Hopkins sadly died on July 21st 2007.

Read a tribute to Charles Hopkins by Alistair Hinton and another tribute by Chris Rice on the Altarus website.