After the British pianist Joyce Hatto died last summer at age 77, newspapers on both sides of the Atlantic published glowing obituaries paying tribute to her enormous recorded legacy and neglected talent.
photo by Angus McBean
But James Inverne, Gramophone magazine's editor, reports that recent Hatto discs issued on the tiny Concert Artist label, run by Hatto's husband, William Barrington-Coupe, appear to be frauds.
Hatto stopped playing in public in the 1970s after undergoing radiation therapy for cancer. She began an extensive recording project on her husband's label; the discs, which span Bach, Mozart, Liszt, Schubert, Rachmaninoff, Dukas and Messiaen, have been lavishly praised.
But, according to Gramophone, rumors have surfaced recently about the authenticity of the discs, with doubters questioning the ability of a sick woman to record so extensively and over such a wide range of repertoire. The doubts came into full force when one of the magazine's critics inserted Hatto's recording of Liszt's 12 Transcendental Etudes into his computer — and his audio software identified the disc as one on BIS Records by the pianist László Simon.
The critic then compared the Hatto disc with the Simon recording, according to Inverne, and discovered that they sounded exactly the same. He next inserted a disc of Hatto playing two Rachmaninoff Piano Concertos; his computer's CD player listed it as a release by Yefim Bronfman, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen, on Sony. A comparative listening session revealed that the two recordings were the same.
Audio expert Andrew Rose checked the soundwaves of each recording and they matched. "Without a shadow of a doubt," he told Gramophone, "10 of the tracks on the Liszt disc are identical to those on the Simon."
Further tests revealed that parts of some other Hatto recordings, such as one track on a disc of music by Godowsky, had been tampered with. When the manipulation was reversed, it became apparent that the track was identical to one played by the pianist Carlo Grante on a CD issued by Altarus, reports Gramophone.
Barrington-Coupe, who produced almost all of his wife's recordings, told the magazine that he couldn't explain the similarities.
Visit Pristine Audio's Hatto web page to see how the discrepancies were uncovered.