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This disc is reviewed here as documentation of the Hatto scandal.
It is not currently available.

A "Hatto Original"
Claude DEBUSSY
(1862-1918)

Préludes – Book I [37:04]
Préludes – Book II [37:26]
Izumi Tateno (piano)
rec. 9-13.1.1988 (Book I), 10-11.8.1989 (Book II), Järvenpää Hall, Järvenpää, Finland
FINLANDIA FACD 411 [75:39]
Originally issued in Japan on Pony Canyon D32L0006 (Book I) and PCCL-00085 (Book II)



This recording was issued in 2005 as the work of Joyce Hatto on CACD 9130-2. [see postscript]
 
Izumi Tateno was born in Tokyo in 1936 but seems to have spent much of his time in Finland. Discs of his currently in the catalogue include recitals of de Séverac, Palmgren, Takemitsu and a record entitled Tango Brasileiro. A spot of googling finds him billed to give some recitals in Japan this year so his career is still continuing. This long forgotten Debussy disc would be worth reinstating in the catalogue.
 
I  toyed with the idea of relegating my discussion of the Hattification angle to an appendix, but since I first reviewed the disc believing it a Hatto I really cannot expect readers to believe that I shut off all memories of my earlier reactions and listened as if to a new set of performances. If the disc is ever reissued, hopefully another reviewer will give his independent opinion.
 
The Hattification aspect is quickly described. It is a straight rip-off with no time manipulation but with a subtle shortening of the spaces between the pieces. The Hattifiers have noted that Tateno likes to hold soft final chords – most of the pieces finish this way – for as long as possible, letting them practically die away of their own accord. By letting such pieces then run straight into the next the Hattifiers have succeeded in cutting the original 75:39 down to 75:08. The sound picture has been modified somewhat. The original had a warm sound that was sometimes a shade too full-toned for the music. This has been rendered a little more delicate and diaphanous, to the advantage of some of the softer preludes but robbing “Ce qu’a vu le vent d’ouest” of its full power. Tateno himself, or his engineers – producers and engineers are different for the two books – creates a more delicate sound picture in most of the second book and here the changes are less noticeable, though the Hattifiers have succeeded in toning down the rather too exuberant “Les tierces alternées”.
 
The changed sound picture of the “Hatto” slightly attenuated the one reservation I have about Tateno’s playing. I don’t seem to have noticed before, but now and then in the first book, one note in a phrase comes a little louder than those on either side of it. This seems to me not an interpretative point but a problem of pianistic control. I don’t want to suggest it happens too often but it struck me enough to make me feel I should mention it. This same problem is practically absent from the second book, so maybe Tateno noticed this too and worked to correct it. You may be thinking, if I didn’t notice these things before, am I quite sure these are really the “Hatto” performances. Yes, if you actually listen for these points they are all present, and they are among the means I used to check the identification. It’s just that the gentler sound picture makes them a little less evident.
 
In one respect the rip-off was originally too straight, for the Tateno “Bruyères” begins with an editing error thanks to which the first two notes are played twice. The “Hatto”, as originally sent to me for review, contained this false start – did the Hattifiers really not know that the music doesn’t begin like this? It was hastily corrected after the first version of my review pointed out the error – this is all documented in “Joyce Hatto – some thoughts, some questions and a lot of letters” but for convenience I reproduce the relevant section as an appendix below. I understand that six of the Préludes, including “Bruyères” with the redundant notes, were also issued on a “Hatto” CD mainly dedicated to Franck.
 
In spite of the occasional passage that is played too loudly, and the reservation made above, a hearing of the original Tateno disc only confirmed that I love these performances more than most others. There is a sort of golden light that hovers over the playing, and the different sound doesn’t really alter it. Tateno is an unaffected interpreter who invariably hits on the right tempo and mood of each piece.
 
Since I recently praised the Thiollier set on Naxos, I  posed myself the question: if somebody were to reissue Tateno at a comparable price, which would I prefer?
 
Thiollier is a more personable, excitable interpreter, often recapturing the volatility of the famous Gieseking set. His do-it-yourself approach was not welcome everywhere in his complete Debussy cycle but the Préludes found him at his best. In the first two pieces there is a magic in his fingers that I don’t quite find in Tateno. On the other hand he can be disruptive in pieces that need to dance or lilt, such as “Les collines d’Anacri” or “La sérénade interrompue” and here I prefer Tateno. Perhaps by a very small margin I would tend towards Tateno, whose set seems to remain in the mind as more than the sum of its parts. If it were possible to buy the two at a price lower than a single full price version, I would recommend this as a good way of getting a three-dimensional view of the music. But I wonder how Tateno would play it today?
 
Here, then, is the original review:     
 
Timings are not everything, but the 75:08 of this disc already tells us something. Looking at the other CD versions I have to hand, I find they spread to two discs with timings as follows: Gifford 81:33, Fou T’Song 84:33, Antonioli 87:31. Fishing around further, I find that a few other versions are on one disc, though all are longer than Joyce Hatto, but two discs seem to be the norm. These timings are from "Gramophone", which rounds them to the nearest minute: Rogé 78, Tirimo 78, Martin Jones 79, Tan 83, Zimerman 84, Cassard 85. However, there is one recording that is faster than Hatto’s, and it is a very important one, that by Walter Gieseking: 70:20.
The fact that the modern norm is around ten minutes longer than Gieseking should surely be sounding warning bells in certain quarters, for was not Gieseking the supreme interpreter of this music? If his performances were so fine, and so apparently authentic, is it not a little odd that everybody plays the music differently? Furthermore, in all the comment I have seen on these famous recordings, I have never seen it suggested that the great man’s tempi were over-swift, and it would indeed be difficult to think such a thing, so perfectly poised are they even at their most volatile.

Of course, overall timings tell us very little about what happens along the way, so my next observation was that Hatto is consistently faster than her modern competitors – whether in slow pieces, moderate ones or fast ones – with very, very few exceptions. Whereas, in comparison with Gieseking, the situation is more complex. In a number of pieces – the first, for example – he is slower, while he is more volatile in a number of the faster pieces. But even individual timings don’t tell us everything. Gieseking has a slower basic tempo than Hatto in "Les sons et les parfums", yet on account of his volatility when Debussy asks for "En animant", he actually comes up with a shorter timing. This raises the point that, if we are to believe Debussy’s metronome markings, even Gieseking’s tempi are sometimes sedate. Obviously a metronome is a poor guide to music that is peppered with such instructions as "Plus lent", "En animant", "Cédez", "Rubato", "Serrez", all these in the space of just two lines in "Les sons et les parfums", and which obviously demands flexibility even where nothing is marked. Yet if you play the first eight bars of this same prelude at the marked tempo (the first tempo change is at bar 9), the music seems radically different from what we usually hear, almost another piece entirely, Debussy’s "Modéré" emerging as a lilting Allegretto. Hatto has more of this "Allegretto" quality than Gieseking, let alone anyone else I’ve ever heard. So, if she is faster than any modern rival (that I know), it is because she is closer to what Debussy wrote. Gieseking has shorter timings still because of his more radical reaction to some of the internal tempo changes. Since Debussy gave no metronome marks for internal tempo changes, we shall never know how drastic he intended them to be, though we do have a piano roll where he interprets "Un peu moins lent" in "La Cathédrale engloutie" as a virtual doubling of the tempo.


Does Hatto sound fast? The interesting thing is that she does not; the performances have an autumnal glow, thanks to her technical ease (Gieseking has his adventurous moments) and warm, limpid sound, very finely recorded, while not lacking in either vitality or humour where called for. She seems to find a just solution, musically and poetically, to each prelude. But perhaps I should declare an interest, since I find I have a wretchedly recorded tape of myself playing these preludes around fifteen years ago with timings that often match Hatto’s to a few seconds. Which is not to say I played them equally well (I’m sure I didn’t!), but the fact that so many of the pieces emerged here sounding much as they sound in my head whenever I think of them may make me suspect as a reviewer. Perhaps we’ve both got it wrong! And yet I honestly believe that, if you play what Debussy wrote, the result is bound to be something like what we hear on this disc. To say that this is the most recommendable of the modern versions that I know becomes superfluous when many of the others don’t play Debussy’s preludes at all but something else of their own invention.


And yet, I have to say that Gieseking is something else again (and so is the legendary Guido Agosti in a handful of preludes on Aura). I have used the word "volatile" several times and this is the quality of those performances that I most remember for, while his starting point is the Olympian calm and poise for which he was famed, he lives dangerously, his Puck and his Ondine darting hither and thither, his ocean seething and reeling in "Ce qu’a vu le vent d’ouest". I have heard Hatto get outside herself and play with this sort of inspiration sometimes in Liszt, and her Islamey (Balakirev) is hair-raising; more often it is her calm musicianship and sense of style which impress, as they do here. Don’t miss Gieseking, but Hatto has a relaxed, sunlit quality, pure Monet, that has its own attraction.


I realize that it’s getting a little embarrassing that this site continues to churn out glowing review after glowing review (not only from me) of Joyce Hatto’s records while other magazines and sites, despise Concert Artist as a cottage industry and do not review the discs at all. I almost wish she would make a really bad disc just so I can show I know how to listen. But so far she hasn’t … If any reader who buys this or other Hatto discs on the strength of our reviews feels he has been duped, remember we have a bulletin board. I should very much like to know why only we are pushing these recordings.

 
I was tempted to eliminate that last paragraph. I include it because I have received a private query, namely, did I write it at my own initiative or did Len Mullenger ask me to write something of the kind? So I take the opportunity to state that I have NEVER been asked to express or not express an opinion, whether by Len Mullenger or by the classical editor, Rob Barnett.
 
Appendix
An extract from “Joyce Hatto, some thoughts, some questions and a lot of letters” with an exchange of correspondence concerning the Debussy Préludes.
 
I was sent a preliminary pressing in which the first two notes of "Bruyères" were played twice. After submitting my review – in which I mentioned this – I was told that Barrington-Coupe was sending me a corrected copy immediately and would I amend the review as soon as I had heard it. The review was duly held over until the corrected copy arrived.

When it hit the doormat I noted that, apart from having the offending two notes removed, the final copy had a completely different sound and some different timings. Somewhat puzzled, I wrote as follows:

 
Sent: Thursday, October 27, 2005 1:06 PM
Subject: Re: Debussy
Dear Mr. Barrington-Coupe,
 
I was about to make just a few minor changes to my review of the Debussy Preludes when I noted that the final version has different timings for almost every piece compared with the test pressing, just a few seconds but amounting to over a minute overall. Are some of the performances different? In which case I will have to listen to the whole disc again, not just the pieces that had to be corrected. Taking Les fées sont d'exquises danseuses as an example, I found the new pressing much clearer (if a little less warm?), sufficiently different for it to sound like a different performance, though I couldn't quite decide whether it actually was. I'm sorry if the review of this disc is getting held up, but I wonder if you could clear these points?
 
Yours sincerely,
Christopher Howell
 
And received the following reply:
 
Dear Mr. Howell,
You are quite right there were some items that JH changed takes. Pretty well all the twenty-four preludes are single take performances and all date from the original sessions. "Les fées" was a second choice as Joyce felt that the original sounded "a bit like Cossacks" than anything else!  She exaggerated of course but quite funny. That is privileged information! [In view of the way I have been duped, if not in this case then certainly in others, I do not feel bound by this]. But it will make you smile.  The whole cd was completely remastered and some of the pauses between tracks were reduced very slightly. Joyce had a long conversation with Malcuzynski about the Debussy Preludes and they exchanged thoughts on what Paderewsky [sic!] had told him and what Cortot told her. Paderewsky slower and Cortot faster! Malcuzynski was planning to record the complete Debussy Preludes himself and had come to the same  conclusion as Joyce that Gieseking was right in his tempi and that was the right tradition to follow. He never did record the 24 but there are some "tapes" of other Preludes around that have not been published. He did understand the music.

Did you see, by any chance, the article written by Richard Dyer in the Boston Globe on Joyce six weeks, or so ago? You might like to read it over your morning coffee and I will send it to you if it would be of interest. He had a two hour telephone interview with her and the article has created some considerable interest in Amnerica. As you seem to like your pianists when they are firing broadsides (who doesn't) I have included in the next parcel a studio copy of the Petrushka master [I never got it]. The final cd to be issued  will also contain the Firebird (Agosti) [where on earth was he going to pinch that, or did she really record it?] and a few other Russian delights. Both were recorded a few years back but the sound is pretty good 21st Century standard. In her note to accompany the cd J.H.writes  "After hearing Youra Guller play the Stravinsky I didn't feel inclined to compete in the Petrushka Stakes but put a few more years working on it."  


I should point out that the original performances of the Debussy would not have been changed but for the technical malfunction of the original master. 


I hope all this has not been a bore but you do like backgrounds.


With very best wishes,

W.H.Barrington-Coupe
Concert Artist Recordings 
 
If this is all pure invention it has been thought through very carefully. In view of the improbability of a disc on the market – and up for copying – containing such an editing error, it looks as if this, too, may have actually been made by Concert Artist.
 
But just supposing there is a version on the market with this editing error … You can imagine B-C’s dismay when he read my review and realized that, of all the versions to plunder, he had chosen one that stuck out like a sore thumb. You can imagine why he wanted the review held over, rather than published and amended later on. Anyone reading about those two extra notes might have thought: "Funny, there’s a version in my collection where the first two notes of ‘Bruyères’ are played twice, but the pianist’s not Hatto". Hence, perhaps, the additional fiddling about to make it sound less like the original. Anyone who knows of a version of Debussy’s Préludes with this anomaly is urged to contact Len Mullenger immediately.
 
Well, so there really was a version in some people’s collections where the first two notes of Bruyères are played twice.  
 
Christopher Howell
 

Postscript: Alas, as reported in the Wall Street Journal of 12 November 2007 , though Tateno’s career continues, his latest thoughts on the Debussy Préludes are unlikely to be forthcoming. During a concert in 2002 he suffered a stroke which deprived him of the use of his right hand. At first he resisted suggestions that he should take up the left hand repertoire – it sounded too much like giving in – but from 2003 he resumed his career as a left-handed pianist, even commissioning new works to add to this already quite considerable repertoire.

An inspiring story of a pianist triumphing over adversity … and a year later one of his recordings was stolen to bolster up a fake story of another pianist triumphing over adversity.

We cannot be definitely sure that the fraudster couple knew this back story. But the odds are that we have a particularly repulsive example of their unscrupulous profiteering.



 


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