It is with profound sadness that we announce the untimely death of Charles Hopkins. To speak of his passing as 'untimely' is a redundancy; the death of a man of his extraordinary gifts and character would, of course, always be premature, whenever it occurred. But in Charles' case, we feel the loss more keenly as, despite the remarkable accomplishments that constitute his legacy, one feels that given time, the breadth and quality of his future work would have been truly astonishing.
An intensely private person, completely uninterested in any form of self-promotion, he gave few public recitals and no radio broadcasts that we have been able to trace; to date only one commercial recording has been issued - his ground-breaking account of Sorabji's Gulistan. So the public record of his accomplishments is strangely limited in proportion both to its quality and to what, apparently, might have been. One might even say that rather than having produced a large body of work, Charles himself was his own work of art. He devoted himself to honing his understanding and appreciation of many aspects of life and thought to a most unusual degree; we will never know whether this might ultimately have proven to be a major oeuvre in waiting, that might have been revealed when the time was right. It may be hoped that the several books that he left incomplete in manuscript, and the numerous articles and translations that were completed might one day be collected and published in some form, as there can be no doubt of their immense value both intrinsically and in illuminating the workings of an unique mind. As it is, those who knew him speak only of the delight of discourse with him - on any subject at any level - and of the quality of his friendship. And now that he is gone, the relatively few gems of accomplishment that he did leave to us are all the more apparently brilliant for their rarity and the absence of clutter and distractions that can all too easily afflict longer, more prolific careers.
Charles was truly a polymathic intellect; there appeared to be very little in which he did not excel. When the text of his biographical note for the Gulistan booklet arrived, it read like a sketch of a slightly far-fetched fictional character; surely nobody could really have achieved excellence in so many different fields? The exquisite clarity of detail and interpretative sensitivity that he brought to the Gulistan recording was more than sufficient to hail him as a pianist of unique gifts. But the meticulously researched, scholarly and articulate essay that he provided for the CD booklet, placing Sorabji's work in the context of the poetry of Sa'di and the Sufic tradition, and illuminating both with exemplary clarity and depth of argument, suggested someone who had spent a lifetime researching nothing else, and a practised full-time professional writer to boot. More examples of his insightful and encyclopaedically thorough literary output are, fortunately, available to the public in the substantial number of articles and criticism that he provided to International Record Review, International Piano and other periodicals from the early 1990s until recently. Over the years it also became abundantly clear that his linguistic gifts were not confined to English; he was unfailingly generous in providing translations and helping to unravel, for example, the mysteries of Sorabji's notorious hybrid Italian and Latin terminology. He was a translator of genius, possessing the extremely rare gift of achieving absolute fidelity to the original text while rendering the translation with a poet's sensitivity to nuance and expression. And all this is beside the fact that many musicians acknowledge with gratitude the value of his pedagogy during his many years of teaching in the North of England.
It was a pleasure and a privilege to have known and worked with Charles Hopkins. Requiescat in pace.