Accomplished composer and beloved ‘James Bond character’ dies aged 93

Antony Hopkins
Antony Hopkins

A highly distinguished composer and radio broadcaster who was educated at Berkhamsted School after being adopted by one of its housemasters has died aged 93.

Antony Hopkins, who took his surname from the school’s Major Tom Hopkins after his father’s death left his mother with four small children and no money to educate them, became a household name across all spectrums of the music industry, including theatre, radio and cinema, across many decades.

His wife of two years Beatrix explained that although he suffered a stroke in his 70s, his health had deteriorated in the months since September last year. Despite recent hospital stays with heart and renal problems, he died in his home bought by Major Tom back in 1930.

Though he moved out at the height of his fame, Antony had returned to the Berkhamsted cottage after the Major’s death in 1969 and had lived there ever since.

Beatrix, almost 40 years his junior, said of her husband: “He looked and seemed younger than his years, right to the end.

“He went at the right time between having a quality of life and just existing.”

This would have been Antony’s 50th year as president of Berkhamsted’s Music Society, a position he also held for Little Gaddesden, Luton and Radlett music societies.

Throughout his impressive career he wrote operas, chamber works and film scores, with his most famous silver screen venture the score to the 1962 film Billy Budd. He also produced compositions for 1952 Dickens adaptation The Pickwick Papers and Cast a Dark Shadow in 1955.

But the composer who was born Antony Reynolds in North London in 1921, is perhaps best remembered for his 36 year stint as presenter of the BBC radio programme Talking About Music.

The programme had a huge following both in the UK and abroad. He was also renowned for his books of musical analysis.

Beatrix fondly remembers motorhead Antony’s love of fast cars, and described him as a ‘James Bond character’ who wooed her on the tracks of Goodwood.

She said: “He had a caring personality and was great fun to be with.

“He liked to encourage young musicians and did a lot of work with the National Children’s Orchestra – he felt he could teach them something.

“What he has done for music is amazing, but he was a fun sort of character with lots of mad stories.”

Beatrix detailed one such ‘mad’ incident in the years after his stroke, in which he managed to give his own body a carwash after stepping out of the vehicle at the wrong time – and ruining the car door.

Though he had been married before, the accomplished musician never had children.

Beatrix, who had known Antony for decades before their marriage and had typed his last four books, said: “At the height of his career, he was a household name. Before the actor Anthony Hopkins came along – his name made an impression on people.

“He was a very outward-looking and youthful man. I never felt the age gap.

“He retained his dry sense of humour to the end, and died in the way he lived.”