Masterpieces Or Fakes? The Joyce Hatto Scandal February 15 2007
It was already one of the strangest stories the classical music world
had witnessed. But the discovery of the late English pianist Joyce Hatto
as the greatest instrumentalist almost nobody had heard of, appears to
have taken a bizarre, even potentially sinister turn.
It was around a year ago that Gramophone’s critics began to champion
this little-known lady, whose discs – miraculous performances, released
by her husband William Barrington-Coupe on the tiny label Concert Artist
– were notoriously difficult to get hold of. Such was the brilliance of
this pianist across Liszt, Schubert, Rachmaninov, Dukas and more in a
dizzying range – that it was worth making the effort to seek out Concert
Artist to get these discs, and they became much sought-after. By the
time she died in June 2006, Joyce Hatto was not only a sudden widespread
success, she was a cause celebre. To love Hatto recordings was to be in
the know, a true piano aficionado who didn’t need the hype of a major
label’s marketing spend to recognise a good, a great, thing when they
But at the same time as the cult of Hatto was burgeoning, there were
persistent rumours on the internet as to the true origins of the
recordings. How, wondered the doubters, could one woman – especially one
who had battled cancer for many years – have mastered a range of
repertoire and recorded a catalogue that arguably makes her more
prolific than even the Richters and the Ashkenazys.
However, Gramophone critic Jeremy Nicholas published a letter in the
magazine asking anyone who had any evidence of any wrong-doing to come
forth. Nobody did, and the matter rested. Until now.
Several days ago, another Gramophone critic decided to listen to a Hatto
Liszt CD, of the 12 Transcendental Studies. He put the disc into his
computer to listen, and something awfully strange happened. His iTunes
player identified the disc as, yes, the Liszts, but not a Hatto
recording. Instead, his display suggested that the disc was one on BIS
Records, by the pianist Lazlo Simon. Mystified, our critic checked his
Hatto disc against the actual Simon recording, and to his amazement they
sounded exactly the same.
In then went a recording of Hatto playing two Rachmaninov Piano
Concertos and, sure enough, iTunes listed it as another – by Yefim
Bronfman, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen, on Sony. Again, the critic
compared, and again he could hear no difference.
Gramophone then sent the Hatto and the Simon Liszt recordings to an
audio expert, Pristine Audio’s Andrew Rose, who scientifically checked
the soundwaves of each recording. They matched. “Without a shadow of a
doubt,” reported Rose, “ten of the tracks on the Liszt disc are
identical to those on the Simon.” Of the remaining two, he now feels
that he has identified a further one – which he identified as being,
again “without a shadow of a doubt” from a CD entitled “Nojima Plays
Liszt”, a 1993 release from Reference Recordings. Furthermore, his
partner – who is based elsewhere with his own equipment – agrees.
More astonishing revelations were to come. The pair then checked a track
from a Hatto disc of music by Godowsky, and found that it sounded
strange, as if the sound had been tampered with. After running checks,
they found that if the music had indeed been manipulated – the time had
been stretched by an “audacious” 15.112% (such an extreme stretch
accounted for the odd sound) to alter the tone, but that if the stretch
was reversed it became clear that the track was identical to that played
by the pianist Carlo Grante on a CD issued by Altarus.
Rose even created special pages on his website, showing the soundwaves
for both the Godowsky and the Liszt side by side with those they match.
The listener can compare the tracks simultaneously.
It would take many weeks of intensive work to examine all of the Hatto
recordings, but it seems clear that at least some of these great
performances are identical to other performances available from other
recording companies. Contacted for his comments, Barrington-Coupe – who
acknowledged that he produced well-nigh all of his wife’s recordings -
was at a loss to explain the similarity.
Are the Hatto’s fakes? If so, how many? This, it must be suspected, is a
story that won’t go away until the full truth is known.
* Don’t miss the April issue of Gramophone for a longer version of this
For more information and the damning evidence from two Hatto CDs, see
Andrew Rose - Pristine Classical
The online home of Classical Music: www.pristineclassical.com
Wow. It looks like a few people on this NG owe Peter Lemken a humble
Tom Deacon must be sitting on a goldmine.
> To love Hatto recordings was to be in
> the know, a true piano aficionado who didn't need the hype of a major
> label's marketing spend to recognise a good, a great, thing when they
> heard it.
I am happy to count myself among the ignorant who never jumped on this
bandwagon. I wonder what RMCR's resident DJ has to say about this.
BTW, if the digital sound files match, why the question mark on the
As far as I can tell, nobody has proven anything.
There are NO specifics in this report, simply allegations.
The one track which MAY be the one they are referring to - with Nojima
- does not betray the same inflections and playing as Hatto, at least
in Feux follets. I will, of course, get that CD out and compare them.
But frankly I wouldn't trust Andrew Rose to pick up my groceries from
Safeway, let alone compare wafeforms!!!
I just ordered my first Hatto CDs - the Ravel set and the Scarlatti
Vol. 1. One the one hand, I was amazed at her stupendous discography
- I guess what is so odd about the Hatto phenomenon is that this huge
discography made itself known all at once!
But on the other hand, if this is a hoax of some kind, isn't it odd
that since the records have been out for a while now, no critics or
expert pianophiles have noticed that the performances sounded familiar?
You will not be unhappy with the Scarlatti, John. I have four of her
Scarlatti CDs. I simply don't know other versions of this music which
sound like this.
Ditto for her Ravel.
So go take a look and listen for yourself, Tom:
BTW - I was asked to do this research by Gramophone. I have no axe to
grind, and have never previously participated in any discussion about
Hatto. I came to this with an open and enquiring mind.
To quickly find that one CD is ripped off from at least two, probably
three sources is remarkable.
To select another at random, and find a source for tracks on it within
20 minutes of looking, suggests an unprecedented hoax has been committed.
I've presented the evidence so far on our website, and I expect to
present more in the next few days. You'll hear three recordings -
"Hatto" on the left channel, and the originals on the right channel.
Judge for yourself.
No human in history could exactly replicate another's performance to
this degree of accuracy - to the nearest 1/44100th of a second...
Ahh, but some did, which led to the first match. From then on it was a
matter of finding the others - not easy if you digitally squash a track
so that it stays in tune but runs 15% faster. Only problem is, it makes
the track sound weirdly compressed, which was the clue to the Godowsky
recording. Speed him up by exactly the same amount and - there it is -
an exact match with Grante. This can only be a deliberate attempt to
> You will not be unhappy with the Scarlatti, John. I have four of her
> Scarlatti CDs. I simply don't know other versions of this music which
> sound like this.
> Ditto for her Ravel.
What's the odds they're not doctored versions of other performances?
Doesn't mean they weren't great to start with.
In my admittedly limited experience - two discs - of Hatto, I've yet to
find one which has not been ripped off from another recording...
Thank you Andrew for helping to expose this hoax.
Fools and Deacon are easily parted of their money.
A question. Has the Itunes data base been loaded with Ms Hatto's
recordings and, if so, by whom?
Alan M. Watkins
Exactly, and although it would be great to find additional examples to
further substantiate the hoax, the examples you cite are sufficient to
accept this was a deliberate attempt to deceive. The washed up DJ is
in denial. You can handle my groceries any time Mr. Rose.
> Thank you Andrew for helping to expose this hoax.
> Fools and Deacon are easily parted of their money.
I'm happy to admit that without the listening and detective work of
others I'd not have known about this. I was first asked to test whether
it was possible to prove that the Simon disc and the Hatto disc were of
the same origin.
From there I scoured the internet for the source of the fifth track on
the Liszt disc - after about two dozen blanks I found the match.
The Godowsky disc was chosen next as there were fewer possible sources.
Again it was a case of searching for matches on the Internet, using both
download sites and recording samples at CD retail sites.
Tomorrow I hope to discover whether one of her orchestral recordings is
what it claims to be, or what others suspect it might be. Thus far I've
heard neither, and will approach again with an open mind and a
It is, however, clear where a match is true and where it's not. The tone
and much of the playing of the final track on the Liszt CD resembles
closely a recording by Freddy Kempff on BIS but it isn't, and I don't
yet know who is playing it. I don't have an inexhaustible library of
recordings to select, so there are bound to be some that I can't trace,
but the two sources of the Liszt were convincing, and proving the same
on a second CD was compelling enough for Gramophone to go to press with
the story. There seems little reason to doubt that further CDs will
yield similar results.
All of which I find terribly sad...
>> Andrew Rose - Pristine Classical
>> The online home of Classical Music:www.pristineclassical.com
> A question. Has the Itunes data base been loaded with Ms Hatto's
> recordings and, if so, by whom?
The system simply checks CD track durations against a central database.
If there's a close match but no exact match it'll suggest that as a
possible hit, as I understand it. This gave a few clues but proved
nothing - just a place to start looking.
The proof is online, awaiting your expert ears...
If it is a hoax, it is a great one - and my compliments to late Ms.
Hatto and company.
I bought the Debussy etudes and wonder how the original performance and
who the original performer is/was.
Dan Koren's mystery pianist and radio programs with the same format
prove time and again that there are no expert pianophiles.
Peter Lemken might be the exception!
> It would take many weeks of intensive work to examine all of the Hatto
> recordings, but it seems clear that at least some of these great
> performances are identical to other performances available from other
> recording companies.
I wonder who had played her Mozart sonatas that were highly acclaimed in
this ng... If this came out someday I'd be glad to know.
iTunes users may or may not have submitted Hatto track listings to
CDDB (which iTunes uses) but that is hardly the point. The Gramophone
piece says that if you insert the Hatto Rach 2 & 3, it identifies it
as the Bronfman/Salonen recording. The CDDB algorithm is based on
number and lengths of tracks. It is possible to get false positives,
but in my experience the probability that the genres much less the
pieces match is remote. I wouldn't take wagers on the statistical
probability that Joyce Hatto plays each movement of each concerto at
the same timing to the second as Yefim Bronfman.
The waveform comparison analysis is about as open and shut as evidence
ever is. There's nothing to do but to stand back and watch the
theater as this hoax unravels.
You've had some personal interactions with Hatto and Barrington-
Coupe. Did anything ever strike you as strange?
Read the MusicWeb biog again with this in mind and you start to wonder
how anyone could miss it:
"Joyce stopped playing in public in 1979. Hospitalisation, near-death
encounters, and alternative therapies followed - to become the pattern
of her existence. She returned to the studio, 3 January 1989, playing
Liszt. Since then she has maintained an annual recording schedule,
reaching a peak of intensity in 1997-99. No discernible pattern or
progression of repertory is apparent. Rather a mêlée of works, of stark
emotional juxtapositions, of dramatically differing linguistic,
spiritual and style states seemingly as the mood and impulse takes her,
of projects begun, taken up again, or completed. In the five days
between 4th and 8th January 1998, for example, she ranged from Chopin
(four ballades) and Beethoven (Hammerklavier) to Prokofiev; in the
corresponding period the following year, 3rd-7th, from Saint-Saëns
(Fourth Piano Concerto), late Beethoven, Mendelssohn (the two piano
concertos [CACD-9070-2]), Rachmaninov (B flat minor Sonata [CACD
9079-2]) and Schumann to Schubert (last sonata) and Liszt, and back
again to Beethoven (middle period sonatas). Prodigious."
One might also say "unbelievable"...
"Assuming correct documentation, five of her studio visits strike me in
particular (changes of sound or microphone position between works
notwithstanding), Joyce ostensibly doing in a day what others would need
two or three for. Contemplate the magnitude, the intellectual grasp, the
aesthetic response, the sheer pianistic stamina and concentration required:
6, 7 January 1995 Liszt Italian Operatic Transcriptions, including
Norma and Sonnambula [CACD 91112, 91122] Four late Mozart sonatas,
K 533/494, 545, 570, 576 [CACD 9055-2
4 January 1998 Chopin B minor Sonata [CACD 9043-2].
Beethoven Hammerklavier [CACD 8009-2]
14 October 1998 Schubert Sonatas in A minor, C minor, D 845, 958 [CACD
16 March 1999 Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition [CACD 9129-2].
Balakirev Islamey [CACD 9195-2]
5 September 2003 Chopin Op 10 Études – a 75th birthday fest in the middle of
Chopin-Godowsky sessions [CACD 9147-2, 9148-2]
- impossible, many cynics would uphold."
"From the track-listings of her CDs, most works or cycles are finished
at a sitting or during a run of consecutive sessions/days. Occasionally
though she will set aside a project to be continued or completed at a
later date. Prokofiev’s War Sonatas, for instance, were not to be
finally tidied-up until six years after they were first tackled. The
Liszt Sonata/Rhapsodie espagnople album, begun in 1989, only reached
completion in 1999 [CACD 9067-2]; the Transcendental Studies, started in
1990, in 2001 [CACD 9084-2]. Maintaining consistency of idea and
interpretation over a lengthy period, with a sound envelope to match,
doesn’t seem to pose a problem."
Not when you're using the same BIS CD as the source for most of it...
This is the recording I'll be testing tomorrow, I hope...
If Tom Deacon cares to compare Hatto's Liszt Transcendentals with
Laszlo Simon's he'll hear for himself that they are (except for tracks
5 and 12) the same. If he can't there's something wrong with his ears.
Many more of Hatto's recordings will be correctly identified over the
coming weeks, now that this has started to unravel.
As for Tom Deacon's amusing statement that his only regret about the
Philips Great Pianists series was the exclusion of Joyce Hatto, I only
hope that his numerous friends here are ready to remind of this.
Here's a quick comparison. I determined the timings of the first nine
Chopin-Godowsky Studies - the Grante Altarus and Joyce Hatto's
timings, given in a review at Classics Today. (Altarus doesn't provide
written timings, so I used my CD player read out).
The timing differences probably don't prove anything, but they are
certainly disproportionatly different. Of course you can notice that
in most cases, Joyce Hatto's timings are faster.
What about Grante's Music & Arts recording, I wonder?
Andrew: I repeat my question. Have her recordings been uploaded on to
It is a simple yes or no surely? If not, how will it know?
All evidence is that there is something wrong with his ears - VPO/BPO
anyone? Would that this is his only flaw. He is wrong from his
hooved feet to his horned head. No wonder Pogorelich had nothing to
do with him. Pogo could smell the stench of sulphur eminating from
the Deacon from a considerable distance of course.
> Many more of Hatto's recordings will be correctly identified over the
> coming weeks, now that this has started to unravel.
Oh, that will be fun! Let's see Deacon, Graham, Lumpe, Watkins and
all the others should go into hiding (who else who has perpetrated
this fraud have I forgotten?). In Deacon's case he can go listen to
all of the Hoaxo discs he bought. This old fraud has been flacking
this hoax for a considerable time. He obviously knows diddly squat
about music not to mention piano playing. He owes everyone an apology
the old narcissist. Of course he is undoubtedly admiring himself in
his magic mirror right now. While he sees himself (and no one else)
as a beauteous creature most others seem him for the dispicable ugly
fraud he is. If he had even a dust motes worth of decency he would
issue an apology. Alas, he is now permanently affixed to his mirror
gazing upon his hideous visage. He is incapable of ever admitting
> As for Tom Deacon's amusing statement that his only regret about the
> Philips Great Pianists series was the exclusion of Joyce Hatto, I only
> hope that his numerous friends here are ready to remind of this.
I don't think there is much to worry about in this respect. Deacon's
already tenuous grip on reality along with non-existent credibility
will do nothing but elicit scorn for everything his addled mind utters
from now on, of course.
The washed up DJ proved months ago that he is as deaf as a post in his
BPO/VPO debacle so it shouldn't be surprising that he is completely
ignorant of which pianist he might be hearing. This also probably
accounts for the myriad errors in the so-called "Great Pianist"
series. So much for the pompous know-it-all ex-DJ.
I'm sure all those orchestral musicians who were performing on Hatto's
concerto recordings will come flooding out of the woodwork to verify
it was really her. Or indeed the fictitious conductor.
Andrew: answer the question. Has it been uploaded with the material
of Ms Hatto or not on to the "central database"
Yes or no?
It is quite simple, really.
Joking aside - let's keep in mind that even if a hoax is uncovered,
Ms. Hatto may have known nothing about it, and her good reputation may
survive all of this (with an admittedly smaller discography).
All of this is fairly dismaying - but anyway, I'm pretty sure that the
LP of her playing Bax sonatas is the real Hatto - and she was good.
> As for Tom Deacon's amusing statement that his only regret about the
> Philips Great Pianists series was the exclusion of Joyce Hatto, I only
> hope that his numerous friends here are ready to remind of this.
She may already be there - multiple times!!
It's so much easier to play a CD than to play the piano. Less practise
How do you get to Joyce Hatto hall?
Hit play, hit record, hit play, hit record.
> All of this is fairly dismaying - but anyway, I'm pretty sure that the
> LP of her playing Bax sonatas is the real Hatto - and she was good.
It's quite possible that she was a very good pianist who made some very
good recordings, and after she got sick some greedy and unscrupulous
people around her found a way to increase her fame and make more money
Alan, I don't know the answer but it's really not relevant. The text
for Hatto's Rachmaninov recording coming up as Bronfman is, at the
mildest, a clue. The giveaway is when you actually listen to the two
recordings and realize they are the same. You might claim that Sony
ripped off the Joyce Hatto recording, but you wouldn't ... would you?
I suspect Hatto's recording details haven't been added to the database
because they have not been widely distributed. The few Hatto discs I
have (including the Liszt Transcendentals incidentally) come up as
"artist unknown". But either way, it makes no difference to the
This is extremely funny.
I am not familiar with any recordings by the late Mrs Barrington-Coupé, née
Hatto, but I hope for a strange twist in this bizarre story.
Roland van Gaalen
> > > No human in history could exactly replicate another's performance to
> > > this degree of accuracy - to the nearest 1/44100th of a second...
> > Not only that -- it turns out that Joyce Hatto was the father of Anna
> > Nicole Smith's baby!
> > -Owen- Hide quoted text -
> > - Show quoted text -
> Joking aside - let's keep in mind that even if a hoax is uncovered,
> Ms. Hatto may have known nothing about it, and her good reputation may
> survive all of this (with an admittedly smaller discography).
Ask Milli Vanilli.
If even a small percentage of her recordings are found to be hoaxed, no
one could trust that the remaining recordings would actually be her,
and not just some unfound recording.
Presumably BIS is going to reissue his Liszt TEs in time for the flood
of orders ...
One thing is sure: if you are wrong, I do hope you have a very good
lawyer. You'll need one.
Andrew: which two Rachmaninoff piano concertos please?
iTunes database is loaded by ANYONE.
Indeed, you can go in and change the database right now if you like.
Garbage in, garbage out.
I think even Tepper has encountered particular examples of such
In the case of the second, which is the one I examined, you can hear
when listening to the uncompressed original 'Hatto' the artefacts
produced by digitally compressing time without altering pitch.
In an off-the-shelf PC program like Adobe Audition you have three basic
options for time and pitch:
1. Alter both (simply speed up or slow down and the pitch does the same
2. Alter pitch, leaving the tempo the same
3. Alter tempo, leaving the pitch the same
The latter two require clever processing and only work convincingly to a
relatively small degree of change, hence the unusual sound on track 2.
Consider the difference - a 15% speed up of an hour's music loses you
nine whole minutes, whilst retaining all the notes.
The third option was used as a means of disguising the origins of the
original recording, and would certainly have continued to be successful
had not previous tracks looked at shown similar, though much less
severe, evidence of the same thing.
A simple vari-speed difference could be put down to error. A time-shift
of 15%, difficult to achieve and get past the critical listener, can
only be a deliberate attempt to disguise and deceive.
I haven't the faintest idea - I've never used iTunes.
I've looked up reviews for Ms. Hatto's recordings at various sites
over the last 6 months or so. The reviews are almost unanimously
superlative, and by many who really know piano recordings, like Jed
Distler. If someone orchestrated an elaborate hoax, they certainly
knew how to choose good recordings! Take for example Ms. Hatto's
Vingt Regards. Superlative reviews - calling it competitive and even
surpassing the likes of P. Serkin, Osborne and Aimard. Just finding
another recording of the Messiaen to create a hoax, and having that
recording's true identity elude the radar of experts, while they call
it the best version they've heard is practically genius!
> This is extremely funny.
> I am not familiar with any recordings by the late Mrs Barrington-Coupé, née
> Hatto, but I hope for a strange twist in this bizarre story.
Any significance to the April issue we're supposed to wait for?
Oh Tom, you are hilarious. Have you listened to the BIS recording of
the Liszt Treanscendentals? If not, I suggest you do.
Even without this evidence, the whole Hatto affair was so blatantly
suspicious I'm surprised more people didn't question it.
It'll be Mr Barrington-Coupe who'll need the lawyers. Not for the
Perhaps, but they don't give out awards for this sort of genius. Only
> I've looked up reviews for Ms. Hatto's recordings at various sites
> over the last 6 months or so. The reviews are almost unanimously
> superlative, and by many who really know piano recordings, like Jed
> Distler. If someone orchestrated an elaborate hoax, they certainly
> knew how to choose good recordings! Take for example Ms. Hatto's
> Vingt Regards. Superlative reviews - calling it competitive and even
> surpassing the likes of P. Serkin, Osborne and Aimard. Just finding
> another recording of the Messiaen to create a hoax, and having that
> recording's true identity elude the radar of experts, while they call
> it the best version they've heard is practically genius!
Maybe the flip side of this story is that there's a whole lot of really
good music out there that we don't get to here because it's been
ignored or neglected.
Change that to "get to hear"
I found it on emusic - it's also on the Naxos Music Library and iTunes.
I know the head of BIS has been contacted about this and given his full
approval of our use of the online example from the Simon CD.
I suspect it was chosen precisely because of bring perhaps a little off
the beaten track - with a couple of other performances thrown in to put
listeners off the scent. Alas the resurrection of back catalogue through
Internet downloading was fatal flaw in that plan...
Then again, this is good news for whoever the original pianists will turn
out to be, as surely the raving reviews ('miraculous performances' in the
Gramophon article) will remain valid.
> Andrew: which two Rachmaninoff piano concertos please?
> Kind regards,
> Alan M. Watkins
The suggestion has been made that her Rach 2 & 3 are actually taken from
a Sony CD. I've no idea yet whether this is the case - as with the
Liszt/Simon recording, this suggestion came from another source, and
I'll merely be checking to see if it holds any water.
This also answers Peter Lemken's long-standing question of how the
orchestra fit into the Cambridge studio: by traveling via jewel case.
So, all you Hatto recording owners, how much work can it be to try all your
Hatto CDs in iTunes???
Do not keep us in suspense! Who did the Ravel, and the Mozart?
That's what I was thinking. If all of these recordings have been
issued before, why didn't critics or collectors rave about them? Is
it because they weren't on a major label? Because they didn't have a
heart-wrenching story attached to them?
It all reminds me of when Andante issued what was supposedly a new
live recording of Das Lied with Walter and Ferrier, which some critics
instantly proclaimed as superior, more "flowing," etc, than the well-
known studio version. In reality, the two recordings were of the same
performance, which even a quick comparative listen via headphones
would have revealed.
We hear with our minds as much as our ears, I suppose, and a good
story counts for as much as good playing.
Absolutely - and in my numerous calls over the last couple of days both
to the editor and his deputy at Gramophone and elsewhere in the US, I've
been speaking to people who've publicly championed Hatto, now forced to
admit that they were as taken in as so many others.
I think Gramophone have done well both to get to the bottom of this
quickly and then not to sensationalise the announcement on their web pages.
I suspect the next issue will provide a reasonable outline of the story
and background, but with only a couple of working days until they go to
press there'll be little new evidence to report, and a lot of humble pie
to be eaten...
You are keeping us in suspense. What's the skinny on Mr. B-C's
I actually own the Bronfman discs and am able to make the comparison.
But first it would help to know which concertos he is claiming are
I am increasingly suspicious of a hoax, alright. It just may not be
the hoax that all here are thinking of.