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Antony Hopkins: A Portrait

Portrait / Various
Release Date: 09/11/2012 
Label:  Divine Art   Catalog #: 21217   Spars Code: DDD 
Composer:  Antony HopkinsAnthony Hopkins
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This is a superb retrospective of Antony Hopkins' achievement as a composer but also recognises his talent as a poet. It is well-produced and allows the listener to approach a considerable variety of musical moods, styles and genres. There is a considerable stylistic gulf between the ‘Partita' and the ‘Tango'. However, both works are suffused with technical skill and sustained interest. The same applies to virtually all the music on these CDs.

A few minor criticisms probably seems churlish. However, three things should be mentioned. Firstly, most of Hopkins' pieces heard here date from the 1940s. There are a couple from the early fifties and one written in 1980. Unfortunately, I do not have access to a ‘works list' so I do
Read more not know what other music has been written since 1953, however it would have given a wider perspective of Hopkins' achievement if a broader range of works had been included.

Secondly, I wish the ‘programme notes' had been a little bit more detailed. Most of these works would seem to be ‘premiere recordings' so are not in the public domain. Little critical reception appears in the pages of The Musical Times , Tempo and other contemporary journals about the major works.

Lastly, I fear that the recorder features just a little bit too much in some of these pieces. Where the work was conceived for that instrument that is fine, however where it has been added or has been substituted for the original ‘flute' it seems to be unnecessary.

The performance of all this music is excellent. I will single out the beautiful voice of Lesley-Jane Rogers and the inspired playing of Matthew Jones on the viola for special mention. However all the soloists impressed me. Finally, I have to pay tribute to John Turner. He conceived the project, organised it and plays on a number of tracks. All this reveals his unquenchable enthusiasm and massive musical ability. It is a major achievement.

- John France, MusicWeb International

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In the 1940s and ‘50s Antony Hopkins was a familiar name as composer, conductor, broadcaster, author, lecturer, first-rate pianist—he called himself ‘a musical odd-job man’. But he was much more than that for he did everything with distinction; and, although his muse was utterly English, his writing has almost a French piquancy. He was lightweight but never trivial and he could consistently charm the ear. So it is good to discover another mid-20th-century composer who wants to please the ordinary music lover and has rejected atonalism. The present anthology shows his range and his consistently seductive invention, with a consistent injection of often haunting lyricism. The opening Viola Sonata, with its fascinating ‘Ground’ and touching ‘Epilogue’, is a splendid work and his Partita for solo violin is all but worthy of Bach, with a splendid central fugato. He writes beautifully for the recorder—the Suite for descant recorder is both deeply expressive and chirpily infectious (and John Turner, with his elegant phrasing and beautiful timbre matches every change of mood winningly). The Third Piano Sonata is another first-rate work, delectably diverse, the opening movement folksy, followed by a somber Largo and a lovely Tranquillo with much uninhibited gusto in the finale. Hopkins also knows how to write appealingly for the soprano voice. The songs are all fresh and, again, often have a folk-like inspiration.

The second disc opens with an irresistibly catchy Tango and then, in the Three Seductions, becomes melancholy, a mood which returns in the Sarabande of the Four Dances from Back to Methuselah, in which he once more looks backwards in time to earlier musical styles, albeit enhanced with a modern overlay. The bonus tracks from the stage works are enjoyable but ungenerous. The eight 90th-birthday tributes from admiring contemporaries include David Matthews’s winsome instrumental A Little Pastoral, and David Dubery’s ‘Evening in April’ and Gordon Crusse’s striking ‘CantAHta’, both beautifully sung by Lesley-Jane Rogers. Joseph Phibbs’s unpredictable ‘Pierrot’ is very much in the Hopkins vein, as is Elis Pehkonen’s engaging Pied en l’air, the composer’s own favourite. Altogether this is a delightfully entertaining anthology, vividly recorded, and can be especially recommended to those who, like me, had not previously discovered the composer’s music.

-- Ivan March, Gramophone
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Works on This Recording

1.
A melancholy song, for voice & piano by Antony Hopkins
Period: Contemporary 
2.
Sonata for Viola and Piano by Antony Hopkins
3.
A Humble Song to the Birds by Antony Hopkins
6.
Pastiche Suite by Antony Hopkins
7.
Three Seductions by Antony Hopkins

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