Etudes were issued in 2005 as the work
of Joyce Hatto on Concert Artist/Fidelio
This CD is reviewed as documentation
of the Hatto scandal and is not currently
To judge from the number
of Google hits in Finnish or other Scandinavian
languages, Margit Rahkonen is a well-established
figure in her native land. Hoping I’ve
understood it correctly, her Finnish-only
Wikipedia entry tells us she was born
in 1949, studied at the Sibelius Academy
(1969) then spent a few years in the
United States, first at the New England
Conservatory where she took a B.Mus
(1973) and an M.Mus (1975), followed
by the Juilliard School (1976). She
has been teaching at the Sibelius Academy
since 1994 and as a teacher her name
appears in the CVs of a number of pianists
pursuing active careers. She has made
several records, mostly as an ensemble
partner. "The French Saxophone",
in which she accompanies Pekka Sarijoki
in music by Milhaud, Boutry, Françaix,
Ibert, Jolivet and Maurice (BIS CD 209),
has been particularly appreciated.
Since I chose the "Hatto"
Debussy Etudes as one of my "Records
of the Year" I’d hardly be so daft
as to claim the performances seem awful
now I know who really played them. My
original review may be read here.
What I did this time round was to compare
each piece to Mitsuko Uchida, since
this is a celebrated, award-winning
version (Philips 475 7559). Was there
any reason, I asked myself, why Uchida
should have got an award rather than
None that I can see,
and in some respects they are similar.
Neither take the purely abstract approach
of Fou Ts’ong (see review),
but neither do they take the traditionally
impressionist, richly pedalled view
of Thiollier (see review).
Uchida, however, courts extremes rather
more. A small crescendo may provoke
her to an explosion. Though this can
superficially seem more engaging I think
I would ultimately prefer the more sympathetic
musicianship of Rahkonen. Just occasionally
I found her playing louder than Debussy’s
dynamics would warrant, but comparison
with Uchida at these points usually
found her playing louder still. Since
Rahkonen is presently unavailable I
repeat my recent suggestion to get both
Uchida and Thiollier for a rounded view.
Fou Ts’ong would provide another dimension
– this music is nothing if not enigmatic.
If Rahkonen were to be reissued I would
stick to the threesome idea, but with
Rahkonen in place of Uchida.
Etudes are neatly and elegantly turned.
This is pallid music compared with Debussy
and perhaps it needs a nod and wink
from the likes of a Rubinstein to make
it seem better than it is.
This particular identification
had a complicated history, due to early
claims that it was heavily doctored
Thiollier. My refutation of this appears
as an appendix to my review of Thiollier.
Various correspondence with the rmcr
group followed, leading to a private
communication from Henk von Tuijl in
which he agreed that the source was
not Thiollier and felt it may be Rahkonen.
I immediately started to try to find
this out-of-print CD but before I had
done so another communication from Henk
van Tuijl arrived. He appended some
notes from Steve Emerson which listed
various points of correspondence between
"Hatto" and Rahkonen in each
Etude. Shortly after this the identification
was announced on Pianophiles and rmcr
by MrT. When the disc arrived at last
I had no difficulty in agreeing with
Unlike the Tateno Préludes,
this time little has been done to change
the sound picture. This means that "Hatto"
appears in considerably more upfront
form here. I remember noting this at
the time but I don’t actually seem to
have written it in my review.
On the other hand,
while the Tateno performances had their
tempi unchanged, there’s been considerable
manipulation here, in two studies in
particular. The timings refer to the
actual music, as it appears on my CD
counter, and do not take into consideration
silence at the beginning or end of the
When the disc arrived
I first checked the opening minute or
so of each piece to confirm the identifications.
I noticed with my naked ear that no.
2 was speeded up, no. 3 slowed down.
The other alterations were not apparent
to me. If I’ve got my sums right, no.
2 has been speeded up by 8.5%, no.3
slowed down by 7.2%. The others, discounting
those where the difference is of a couple
of seconds, range between 1.5% and 3.9%.
This suggests that a change has to be
somewhere between 4% and 7% before the
ear registers it, but this could be
different from person to person.
It could also depend
on the final result of the change. In
spite of the Hattifiers efforts, no.
2 is still slightly longer than Uchida.
Whereas Uchida’s no. 3 is slower still
than the Hattified Rahkonen. In other
words, the tempi have not been cranked
up beyond what is humanly possible –
faster tempi can be heard elsewhere
– or slowed down beyond anything that
a reputable artist might consider feasible.
I can’t help feeling that if anyone
were to crank up Uchida’s tempi for
the last Etude – already manically fast
to my ears – by even a small percentage,
it would have one’s stomach churning.
In view of the speed
changes those with "Hatto"
cannot simply re-label it "Rahkonen",
as they could with the Tateno Préludes.
All the same, I don’t think the differences
are such as to affect my original opinion
of the performances.
"Etude en forme de valse"
was included in a mixed "Hatto"
recital of French music, featuring principally
the two major Franck works. I didn’t
review this, but given the likelihood
that the Hattifiers would have used
Rahkonen also for this, Farhan Malik
has kindly compared the two. In the
event it was not a match.
Debussy seems to create
problems for Hatto-hunters. Still unidentified
on Debussy Vol. 2 are "Arabesque
no.2" and "La plus que lente",
while the Pascal Rogé identification
of "Arabesque 1" needs confirmation.
"La plus que lente" was long
claimed as the work of Klara Kormendi
on Naxos. Another out-of-print disc
which I eventually managed to hear.
As I have already announced elsewhere,
it’s not a match. In view of my high
opinion of the performance, which I
see no reason to revise, I hope this
will be sorted out in due course.