Antony Hopkins

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Not to be confused with Anthony Hopkins or A. G. Hopkins.

Antony Hopkins CBE (21 March 1921 – 6 May 2014) was an English composer, pianist and conductor, as well as a writer and radio broadcaster. He may have been best known for his books of musical analysis and for his radio programmes Talking About Music, broadcast for many years by the BBC, first on the Third Programme, later Radio 3, and then on Radio 4.[1]

Life and career[edit]

Hopkins was born Ernest William Antony Reynolds in London, and his surname was changed to Hopkins after he was adopted by the headmaster at Berkhamsted School, Major Thomas Hopkins, following the death of his father.[1] He entered the Royal College of Music (RCM) in 1939 where he studied piano under Cyril Smith, as well as organ (though he described himself as "the world's worst organist").[2] He won several scholarships as well as the Chappell Gold Medal for piano and the Cobbett prize for composition.[3] While still studying at the RCM, he became involved with Michael Tippett's choir at Morley College.[4] Hopkins also received informal lessons in composition from Tippett,[5] who in 1944 passed to Hopkins the job of composing incidental music for a production of Doctor Faustus at the Liverpool Playhouse; following its success, Louis MacNeice asked Hopkins to write incidental music for a radio play. For the next 15 years, Hopkins earned his living mostly from composing.[1]

His first opera, Lady Rohesia (1947), based on the Ingoldsby Legends of sixteenth-century England, was staged at Sadler's Wells in 1948.[3] His other operas include The Man from Tuscany, Three's Company (1953), and Hands Across the Sky.[6] Other works include the ballet Café des Sports; and Scena for soprano and strings (which was later arranged for three solo voices and full orchestra).[7] Hopkins also wrote extensively for films, including Here Come the Huggetts (1948), The Pickwick Papers (1952), Cast a Dark Shadow (1955), and Billy Budd (1962).[8]

In November 1953, Hopkins gave a radio talk in which he explained, using musical examples, the intricacies of a Bach fugue. Martin Armstrong in The Listener magazine described Hopkins' programme as "a pyrotechnic display, by which I mean not flashy but brilliant – it did not seem to promise amusing entertainment, yet this was what Mr Hopkins's half-hour analysis was". A producer of the BBC Third Programme, Roger Fiske, subsequently offered Hopkins carte blanche to do whatever he wanted on the radio: Hopkins suggested a half-hour programme on talking about works to be broadcast in the coming week. The resulting series, Talking About Music, ran from 1954 to 1992.[1]

In the 1970s, he revived the long forgotten oratorio Ruth (infamous as 'the Worst Oratorio in the World'[9]) by the English composer George Tolhurst; this was heard again in 2009 on the BBC Radio 3 programme The Choir. From 1952 he was Artistic Director of the Intimate Opera Company,[3] being replaced by Stephen Manton in 1963 though remaining a director and as music adviser of the company.[10] From 1994 until his death he was President of Radlett Music Club.[11]

Personal life[edit]

Hopkins was appointed a CBE in 1976 for his services to music.[1][12] He died on 6 May 2014.[12]


  • Beating Time - autobiography (1982)
  • Downbeat Music Guide
  • Music all Around Me
  • Musicamusings
  • Music Face to Face (with André Previn)
  • Pathway to Music
  • Sounds of the Orchestra: A Study of Orchestral Texture
  • Talking About Concertos
  • Talking About Sonatas
  • Talking About Symphonies
  • The Dent Concertgoer's Companion
  • The Nine Symphonies of Beethoven
  • The Seven Concertos of Beethoven
  • Understanding Music


  • 'Talking About Hopkins': Antony Hopkins, CBE, in conversation with Mark Doran, Musical Opinion, March 2011, pp. 14–17.


  1. ^ a b c d e Hewett, Ivan (6 May 2014). "Antony Hopkins obituary". The Guardian. Retrieved 8 May 2014. 
  2. ^ Haddon, Elizabeth. Making Music in Britain. Ashgate, 2006. p. 92
  3. ^ a b c Haddon (2006). p. 90
  4. ^ Haddon (2006). p. 93
  5. ^ Haddon (2006). p. 94
  6. ^ Cooke, Richard. "Hopkins, Antony" Grove Music Online, accessed 29 June 2014 (subscription required)
  7. ^ Profile,; accessed 6 May 2014.
  8. ^ Profile,; accessed 6 March 2014.
  9. ^ The Musical Times. 61.923 (1920): 21–25. 
  10. ^ "Coming Events at Home". Opera (November 1963): 39. Retrieved 29 June 2014. 
  11. ^ "Anthony Hopkins - 21 March 1921 – 6 May 2014". Radlett Music Club. 6 May 2014. Retrieved 29 June 2014. 
  12. ^ a b "Composer and broadcaster Antony Hopkins dies aged 93". BBC News. 7 May 2014. Retrieved 7 May 2014. 

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