“The commissioned piece … [c]omposed by James Hopkins … proved to be a lean and elegant synthesis of Baroque sense and modern sensibility.
Complex without being dense, clever without being cloying, filled with intriguing harmonic detours and bursts of virtuosity, the piece was a delightful homage to Bach’s chorale. So delightful was it that [conductor] Karson’s suggestion for an immediate encore was greeted with enthusiastic and rousing applause.”
The Orange County Register

“The piece borrows the chorale Wachet auf… as a theme for a light-textured work that blends Baroque contrapuntal techniques, ornamentation and small structures into contemporary harmonies with an organic approach to form.
… [It] proved an effective mood painter. … It evoked a strong sense of somber nostalgia and mystery, established by presenting phrases of the Baroque theme – set for the strings in poignant dissonance – between florid, atmospheric organ passages. Eerie ostinatos sustained the aura.”
Los Angeles Times



“James Hopkins’s Concierto de Los Angeles was the best-integrated organ concerto I have heard, weaving individual voices of the organ in and out of complementary instruments in the orchestra. ... I wanted to hear the piece again as soon as it died away.”
The American Organist



“James Hopkins, the … talented composer of Diferencias sobre un Tema Original, the commissioned work premiered by the resident trio, was placed in a most difficult position in being heard between the two masterworks previously discussed.
It should be considered a tribute to him, therefore, that his work did not appear to suffer from this. It was different, both in style and in medium, as it was meant to be, and added a nice touch of variety to the program.
… The use of the variation form offered good opportunity for the exploitation of a variety of sonorities, effects, and moods...
The final impression … was of a composer in sure command of his technical resources who had produced a work which served well to demonstrate the versatility of the performers.”
Laramie [Wyoming] Daily Boomerang

“Hopkins’ gratefully constructed music calls on both solo and ensemble talents from each of the trio, from the initial, dramatic downward rush of notes to the fireworks burst of a finish. Variety, obviously, is the name of the game; but Hopkins gets this without clichés. He moves easily between unison movement and counterpoint, contrasting the piano against the two stringed instruments and inserting some devices of his own.
... It is a piece I would like to hear again. Though contemporary, Hopkins has avoided being outré.”
The Denver Post



“… James Hopkins conducted his Fantasia for Eight Cellos (1978), based on a concerto grosso principle. Despite all its requisite modern touches (from slides to sul ponticellos), satisfying rich tones and tasteful expressiveness reigned supreme. Only the ending brought disappointment — it came too soon.”
Los Angeles Times



“The bonus in this oceanic program was the premiere of James Hopkins’ half-hour-long From the Realm of the Sea, a lean, economical and beauteous tone-poem for chorale and orchestra … As composer in residence for the [Pacific] Chorale, Hopkins has created a gem-like and touching piece of which both he and his sponsors can be deeply proud.”
Los Angeles Times



“ ‘Danza del Aire’ is an atmospheric piece with featured melodies for English horn and bass clarinet … In ‘Danza de la Tierra,’ the style is more rhythmic and direct, even primitive. The piece is skillfully constructed and holds one’s interest.”
Chatham [New Jersey] Courier



“For new thrills, there was the world premiere of James Hopkins’ intriguing Metopes, a three-part, quarter-hour mural of exotic sounds and hidden scenarios, written in a free atonal style. Hopkins’ rich imagination has here created fascinating juxtapositions and compelling rhetoric. [Organist] Rhodes seemed to realize both the outer display and the inner life of the new piece by the USC professor.”
Los Angeles Times


METOPES - Movement #1: Arachne’s Web

Arachne’s Web is a virtuoso recital piece requiring advanced technique, imagination, and musicianship on the part of the performer. ... The texture, for the most part, is rather open and delicate. There are some challenging rhythmic complexities, and the coloristic nature of the piece requires a three-manual instrument with good tonal resources. … Arachne’s Web manages to be both original and imaginative, yet organistic.”
The American Organist



“The new came from California in Phantasms by … James Hopkins. Dividing his pieces of fantasy, or illusions, into three parts, Hopkins in about 18 minutes fashions an absorbing score whose principal attraction is the changing sonority that emerges from an unusually large orchestra.
To the usual instruments, Hopkins adds extra woodwinds and percussion plus piano, two harps, celesta and harpsichord. His textures, however, are rarely heavy. Their elegance comes rather from a remarkable kind of clarity. Wishing to suggest a French ambiance, Hopkins labels his three sections “mirages, chimerical bells, and nebulae," in that language. For the latter, a wordless soprano voice is added.
The total effect of the work … is handsome, thanks to the composer’s special skills in combining his sounds with purposeful writing.”
The Washington Post

“Another unusual event on the program, conducted by Antal Dorati, was the first performance in Washington of the Phantasms of James Hopkins … . The piece consists of three separate but linked tone poems, with the subtitles Mirages, Cloches chimeriques and Nebuleuses. This is an avant-garde work, but unlike many such compositions, it is not restricted to fooling around with strange and exotic sounds. There is plenty of this, to be sure, but Hopkins achieves both mood and shape.
The shape is achieved by the careful coordination of dynamics with tone color and by the emergence of [the] theme from the manipulation of motives which occur at first in fragmentary utterance.
Audience reaction was favorable, especially significant on first hearing. I expect much from this talented young man. … Bravo!”
Washington Star News



“Hopkins’ Revelations and Transformations had the benefit of two playings, the better to appreciate its highly skilled ordering of delicate timbral effects and surging string melodies and the more tempting the opportunity to think about the work pictorially. (Here was one of those rare and wonderful occasions when the tone rows involved didn’t rise up to hit one with an academic fist.)"
Los Angeles Times



“The music — languorous, longing, poignant — matched the texts perceptively.”
Orange County Register



“Hopkins … has written an absorbing 22-minute work that sets a text by Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore … In his gentle treatment, Hopkins inflected a 20th-century harmonic vocabulary with a modality evoking not exactly India or the Middle East but something exotic and timeless. A brief passage with this inflection led to a flute solo and returned to create a sense of closure in the work’s final moments. In between, Hopkins set the text in a fairly straight-forward way, allowing the words to remain paramount. … In the transcendent final poem, Hopkins word-painted with telling expression, taking the sopranos high when the text turned to images of flight, and the entire chorus to unison when the poetry spoke of the last moments as life lapses peacefully into death. It would not be a surprise if this work were to find its own life after its premiere.”
The Orange County Register

“... Hopkins’ Songs of Eternity is a most touching, handsomely wrought setting of three Tagore poems. The composer wrote this delicate and autumnal music — which recalls both Mahler and Brahms in its emotional directness — in memory of David Lee Shanbrom ….”
Los Angeles Times

“[Hopkins] provided a haunting score, with orchestral treatment reminiscent of Mahler in its chamber-music grouping and delicacy.
“Hopkins used as his text three poems by Indian poet Rabindrath (sic) Tagore and wrote a deceptively simple, but elegant … work that magnificently captured the spirit of Tagore’s hauntingly beautiful and powerful words.
That decision [to read the poetry aloud], the Chorale’s singing and, most importantly, Hopkins’ composition combined to make Songs of Eternity one of the most moving experiences I have had as a music critic. I would be honored — and humbled — if someone were to write something so powerful and beautiful about my life.”
San Gabriel Valley Newspapers

Hopkins’ three-part, straight-forward settings of texts by Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore are enveloped in an atmospheric harmonic landscape, inflected by occasional Middle Eastern scales, the use of resonant percussive effects such as chimes, vibes and tam-tam, and haunted by a mystical motto figure of a simple appoggiatura. The final movement is the work’s most moving: a nostalgic figure on the horns echoes over sustained strings while the chorus intones Tagore’s description of a peaceful death.”
The Orange County Register



… James F. Hopkins’ Symphony #4, Visions of Hell, was inspired by three paintings of the 15th-16th century Dutch painter, Hieronymus Bosch. In his three-movement work, Hopkins demonstrates masterful orchestration and great subtlety in tonal painting.
It belongs in a tiny, elite group of compositions of the last 20 years worth hearing at least once.”
Oregon Journal

“Hopkins … responded to an Oregon Symphony commission with his Symphony #4, subtitled “Visions of Hell” after Hieronymus Bosch. Its sound and subject matter are vastly different from those of Debussy, but in many ways Hopkins is equally as successful in challenging the imagination with vision s of things we cannot predict, nor could live to tell about.
Some of his compositional techniques are common to modern music … but it is the over-all effect of the music that accounts for its achievements. … [It] builds gradually and carefully to climaxes filled with deep and powerful statements.”
The Oregonian



“The good news is that Hopkins’ … symphony turns out to be a likable, compact, cunningly orchestrated piece of work. Cast in three movements, the polyphony swims about in swirling, colorful chromatic currents, laced with imaginative linear streaks and ominous deep pedal notes from the organ.
… Hopkins … seduce[s] his audience with drifting, cinematic tone painting. Yet the piece works well …, never wearing out its welcome.”
Los Angeles Times



“The attractive climax of this organ-orchestra program was the world premiere of Voces Organi (Voices of the Organ) commissioned by the PCO [Pasadena Chamber Orchestra] from Pasadena composer James Hopkins.
Hopkins has created a highly original and accessible piece for four hands, strings and percussion which explores to good effect the varied voices of both the organ and string ensemble. The work moves through a series of slowly building crescendi to its dramatic coda and conclusion with intensity and a variety of timbral shadings, some vaguely mideastern, and interesting figurations.”
Pasadena Star News