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Hyde's Magic Lives Again On CD
By Charles A. Hooey 

A wealth of CDs extols the undisputed art of Irish tenor John McCormack but until recently, nary a one has offered any 78s and cylinders by the equally gifted English tenor, Walter Hyde. Neglect for certain! Fortunately Cheyne Records have now come to the rescue with their CD CHE44420.

Young Walter was first heard in his Birmingham church as a choir boy, tripping over an overly large surplice as he moved down an aisle, singing his little heart out. He was born in 1875 so no souvenirs of his promising chirping exist but as an adult, he quickly realized the potential of the burgeoning record industry.

Initially, he sought fame and fortune in light musicals such as The Three Kisses, Miss Hook from Holland and My Lady Molly - he even recorded a song from the latter - as well as in Gilbert and Sullivan. Thus he was a natural when two pioneering companies chose to record HMS Pinafore. First came Hunting and Sterling in the autumn of 1907, then a few months later Odeon. Symposium has both on CD but Cheyne provides Hyde in Ralph Rackstraw's "The nightingale sighed" from the Odeon set. Odeon had the bit in its teeth so in April, 1908, they recorded The Mikado with Hyde as Ko-ko. So far no CD. Another Sullivan is here too: a stirring account of "Come, Margarita, come" from The Martyr of Antioch.

In 1906, Hyde was Liza Lehmann's choice to portray the Squire in her opera The Vicar of Wakefield, but when John McCormack came along, his sweet sound appealed and Walter was out in the cold. When John began to vocalize, however, his heavy broque immediately disqualified him as the ultra-English squire. Re-enter Hyde to score mightily." There are birds in the valley" from this opera is from a 1909 session.

Today, if Walter Hyde is remembered at all, it is as the tenor who was plucked from musical comedy in 1908 to enjoy a huge success at Covent Garden as Siegmund in the English Ring. Discover his magic in "Winter storms have waned" from The Valkyrie and derive added pleasure in Lohengrin's "Mein liebe schwann." Both were recorded in 1921.

In July 1910 when Thomas Beecham first ventured into a recording studio, he took four singers from his Opera-Comique Company to wax music from Tales of Hoffmann and Die Fledermaus. Apparently none of the ensemble pieces survive, but Hyde's two Offenbach discs are here. Caroline Hatchard's Doll Song would have been a delicious bonus.

Other classics include "Let me like a soldier fall" from Wallace's Maritana and "Where'er you walk" from Semele by Handel (September 1909) and "M'appari" in English from Martha, "How far" from Eugene Onegin and the duet "Be mine the delight" from Faust with Robert Radford (1918).

But this CD is primarily devoted to a fine smattering of art songs, lieder and ballads by Leoni, Maud Valerie White (2), Bishop, Cowen, Guy d'Hardelot, Blumenthal, Adams, Schubert and Mendelssohn, all very pleasing. It begins with Grieg's "Ich liebe dich" and concludes with "Pleading" by Elgar.

You're not reaching for your cheque book? Perhaps the Irish traditional favorite, "Believe me, if all those endearing young charms" will tip the scales. I hope so for Cheyne has given us a unique opportunity to hear a very special artist.

Don't, however, expect piercing Italianate highs; instead sit back and relish a singer who makes music come alive by an even flow of rich sound, pointed diction and a magical legato. You'll hear an infinitely pleasing musician with never a note amiss, the kind of tenor to hear over and over again without ever flinching or tiring. This explains why he was so beloved in English music for twenty-five years early in the last century. Walter Hyde recorded about 185 items, including his Gilbert and Sullivan operas, and from these, Cheyne has chosen wisely. Thank you and may we now look for an encore?

CD Suppliers
Walter Hyde - CHE44420
Cheyne Records, P.O. Box 132, Tunbridge Wells, Kent TN1 2HF

HMS Pinafore (Hunting and Sterling) Sym 1267
HMS Pinafore (Odeon) Sym 1293
Symposium Records, 110, Derwent Avenue, East Barnet, Hertfordshire EN4

Published in For The Record, September 2005

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