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Hatto - the greatest pianist(s) that now everyone has heard of!

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The revelations concerning some of the recordings made by Joyce Hatto came as a total shock to those of us at MusicWeb. We had been reviewing Concert Artist discs for about three years and had been making them available for sale for just over a year. I only spoke to William once by phone although we were in e-mail contact virtually every day. Ates Orga also had contact with him and had written an extended article about Joyce Hatto for MusicWeb. I extended our sympathy to William when Joyce died. I did not ask to attend the funeral as I felt I did not know him well enough. This year I held a MusicWeb lunch for reviewers on January 27th to which William was invited as a guest so that reviewers could meet him. Such occasions are very busy but I did give him a lift from the station and back and he sat opposite me at the lunch so I did have extended chats with him. It was obvious that he was still grieving for Joyce and she filled his conversation. He talked about many personal matters but he really was the last person one could imagine as a con-artist.

William Barrington-Coupe (right) with a MusicWeb reviewer © MusicWeb International

There had been various conspiracy theories running in the newsgroups but a number of totally inaccurate things had also been said there about MusicWeb so I did not give them any credence. I knew that Joyce Hatto had existed and I knew people who had spoken or corresponded with her very recently. You can find early references to her by leafing through copies of Gramophone from the 1960s and 1970s. When Andrew Rose produced his analysis it seemed unbelievable, but only for a few moments because the evidence was so overwhelming. It seems clear to me now that the production of Concert Artist discs bearing Hatto’s name was not an excusable, rash, action arising from a time of grief but seems to have been perpetrated over a much long period of time. We will probably never know whether anyone else apart from William was involved in these seemingly deliberate acts.

William protested his innocence in an e-mail and said he had no explanation for Andrew Rose's discovery but that he was trying to get hold of the Liszt 12 transcendental studies recorded by Lazlo Simon on BIS so he could listen for himself. Things have moved on too much since then. The discs were not what Concert Artist claimed them to be and it subsequently emerged that William had already served time for fraud. We had no option but to stop offering Concert Artist discs for sale from MusicWeb until it could be clear which were genuine. The discs have, as one might expect, now become more eagerly sought after but MusicWeb never held any actual stocks of discs and I probably would not have sold those if we had. I approached our reviewers and Ates Orga to see if they now wished to withdraw or amend their reviews but nobody wanted to do so.

One might ask if we had ever suspected there might have been a problem with the Hatto recordings. We handle about 300 discs per month and it just never occurred that a disc might be anything other than it claimed to be. It might appear like hindsight now but just after the MusicWeb lunch Chris Thomas, David Dyer and myself were listening to the Ravel recordings and did express amazement that a woman in such a terminal stage of cancer could produce playing of such power; but we never went so far as to think the discs might be forgeries.

It has been a sad few days but our reviews still stand because they were not about Joyce Hatto but about the performance on each disc. The comments made still stand, it merely remains to identify who the various artists were.

Len Mullenger



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