This is a most welcome CD for all admirers of Antony Hopkins, composer, pianist, musicologist, lecturer, broadcaster, poet and author. And also those who may be too young or who live in the few parts of the world that Mr Hopkins voice was not heard. There is little of his recorded music available and this issue on two CDs covers a variety of his work mostly composed (with a couple exceptions) in the years immediately after the end of the Second World War.
There is a lot to dip into here, so I will highlight only a few tracks that resonated so strongly for me.
The lovely `Ground’ from the `Sonata for viola & piano’ (1945) played with mellifluous tone by Matthew Jones, viola. Typical of the composer’s cheeky sense of humour is the instruction that the extreme bass notes on the piano are to be played by the page-tuner; in this instance it was the composer himself in his ninetieth year.
The rather attractive and little known work `A humble song to the birds’ (1948) is a cantata in four sections, heard here with the luxury casting of tenor James Gilchrist who brings to it both authority and crystal clear diction.
The 1947 `Partita in G minor for solo violin’, dedicated to Neville Marriner, is a finely wrought work in several movements and Paul Barritt gives a splendid performance.
The `Suite for descant recorder and piano’ (1952) first performed at Wigmore Hall in 1953 by Carl Dolmetch is a delightful work given a most sympathetic performance here by John Turner and Janet Simpson.
`Three French Folksongs’ (1947) reveal Mr Hopkins’ ability to absorb both the essence of French folk melody in a style that is concise and delightfully captivating.
The second disc features eight new works written as tributes for Antony Hopkins 90th Birthday, five of which received performances in May 2011.
These include `On how to sing’ (Andrew Plant); `A little Pastoral’ by David Matthews for solo recorder, wistful and very brief; `Evening in April’, a lyrical and moving song setting of a Douglas Gibson poem composed for soprano, recorder and piano by David Dubery ; an extraordinary and interesting piece by Anthony Gilbert titled `Above all that’; a witty contribution from Gordon Crosse titled `CantAHta’ for a wordless soprano singing to AH throughout; `Head Music’, a pretty piece for recorder and piano by David Ellis : `Pierrot’, an atmospheric setting of American poet Sara Teasdale by Joseph Phibbs: and lastly `Pieds en L’air’ for recorder and piano by Elis Pehkonen based on the traditional tune, a favourite of Antony Hopkins. These demonstrate a fairly wide spectrum of new musical writing in Mr Hopkins’ 90th year, from the inspired beauty of Dubery’s song to the `modern’ soundscape of the Gilbert piece, but certainly they are all worthy of their place in this celebration.
Not to be missed on this second disc are the three monologues written by, and delivered in that most memorable voice of Antony Hopkins. `Charlie’s Revenge’ is deliciously naughty. The disc concludes on a merry note with three excerpts from Mr Hopkins’ musicals `Johnny the Priest’ (1960) and `Three’s Company’ (1953), from the original soundtrack recordings.
This is a compilation that will entertain on all levels.