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Tribute to Christopher Hyde-Smith, 1935 - 2024

Distinguished flautist and MU member for 70 years, Christopher Hyde-Smith enjoyed a hugely successful and varied career as a soloist, orchestral musician and professor at the Royal College of Music.

Published: 05 March 2024 | 4:17 PM
Black and white portrait of Christopher Hyde-Smith, holding his flute.
Christopher was a member of the MU for 70 years.

Christopher was born in Cairo into a lineage of army officers. Although there was an expectation to follow this path, he was determined to forge a life doing what he loved, making music.

He became an acclaimed soloist, playing all over the world with ensembles including the London Symphony and Royal Philharmonic Orchestras. He collaborated with such leading figures as Stravinsky, Britten, Bernstein, Poulenc, Tortelier and Casals. Additionally, he was principal flute with the Northern Sinfonia and the London Mozart Players and also performed with the Berlin and New York Philharmonic Orchestras.

Notable performances

As a flautist of wide versatility, works were dedicated to him for a variety of different flutes by such composers as William Alwyn, Stephen Dodgson and Edwin Roxburgh. His performances were known for “accomplished, tasteful playing…charm and wit” with “phrasing that made (one) gasp with delight” (The Guardian).

In 1969, Christopher formed the Robles Trio together with violist Frederick Riddle and his first wife, harpist Marisa Robles, with whom he regularly performed and recorded Mozart’s Flute and Harp Concerto. Amongst his other notable performances were the collaboration with James Galway in Cimarosa’s Concerto for Two Flutes at the Royal Festival Hall and the captivating flute solo in the 1962 film, Lawrence of Arabia.

As a chamber musician, he also regularly appeared alongside the Delme Quartet and the Cummings String Trio. Christopher established an enduring partnership with pianist and harpsichordist Jane Dodd in 1984 and they were married one year later. Together they performed and recorded all the flute works of Bach and Handel, premiered works by Alwyn, Damase and Fauré on BBC Radio 3, and ran masterclasses and summer schools together.

Academic career and family

Christopher attended Eton College before joining the Royal College of Music as a student and later scholar in 1952, studying with Edward Walker. He was awarded the August Manns Memorial Prize in 1955 and was appointed Professor in 1964, teaching there for 36 years until his retirement.

The devotion he had for the development of musicians throughout his career was recognised when he was awarded an honorary fellowship from the College in 1985. As well as this, he was the founding chairman of the British Flute Society. His former students remember him as an inspiring mentor who was generous with his time and knowledge, and always full of character and humour.

Christopher passed away peacefully at home with his family by his side on 25 February 2024, aged 88. He is survived by his wife, Jane, and was a much-loved father to Grania, Alexander, Ellen and Abi and grandfather to Matilda, Amaya, Theo and Freddie. He also leaves behind his beloved cat, Bella.

Christopher was a member of the MU for 70 years, having begun membership on 3 March 1954. 

This tribute has been provided by Christopher's daughters, Ellen and Abi.

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