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rec. The Royston Concert Hall
Concert Artist RIPOFF 100 [2046 CDs timings +/- a little]

Experience Classicsonline


At last we have a boxed set containing all the recordings made by wunderkind Joyce Hatto. It is a remarkable treasure trove, comprising no fewer than 2046 discs. We have Joyce playing not only the entire piano works of all the composers ever preserved on disc, but also innumerable rarities. For example, we hear Hatto playing the organ in Poulenc's Organ Concerto; the harmonica in Vaughan Williams's Romance in D flat as well as the tuba in his Tuba Concerto in F minor; and the Ondes Martenot in Messiaen's Turangalila Symphony. The miracle of overdubbing made it possible for her to record all the instruments in her unique version of Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, which is modestly credited to the National Orchestra of Minsk, conducted by Sue Donim.

This superb boxed set proves that a perceptive reviewer was absolutely correct when he called Hatto "the greatest living pianist that almost no one has ever heard of". An even more perceptive critic said that "She could sound like any pianist who ever recorded". In fact Hatto could claim to have known many of the greatest living masters of the keyboard, including Sviatoslav Richter, Alfred Cortot, Benno Moiseiwitsch, Franz Liszt and Frederic Chopin. But her talents ranged much more widely than the piano keyboard. She was a cordon bleu chef; she climbed Mount Everest before Sir Edmund Hillary (although she was too modest to make this public); and she is credited with bringing the First World War to an end through her dogged diplomacy.

It must be admitted that the humming heard in her recordings of Bach's keyboard compositions is remarkably similar to that made on the recordings by Glenn Gould, but naturally Hatto's versions are far superior. And she does a remarkably convincing imitation of Edward Elgar's voice when she asks the orchestra: "Will you play this tune as though you've never heard it before?" at the beginning of her ground-breaking recording of Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance March No. 1 in D with the London Sympathy Orchestra. This is all the more exciting as it was recorded when Hatto was only four years old. The informative four-page booklet included with this set points out Hatto's unprecedented skills as an impressionist. It is not widely known that she herself made the sound of the nightingale in her 78-rpm recording of Respighi's Pines of Rome, and produced the sound of arrows being shot into the air for Laurence Olivier's film of Henry V as well as the sound of the gong at the beginning of J. Arthur Rank movies.

This boxed set includes some unusual recordings not previously released and now available to the public at Concert Artist's very reasonable price (payment by instalments can be arranged). They include Joyce's comic monologues The Day War Broke Out and The Road to Mandalay, revealing a previously unsuspected side of the artist; her premiere recording of Smoke on the Water, which was later such a hit when the tune was taken up by Deep Purple; and her complete set of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies's ten Naxos Quartets, which were later sadly imitated by the Maggini Quartet (which produced very inferior performances to Hatto's pioneering interpretations).

We can be extremely grateful to the producer who compiled this unprecedented box set - although he self-effacingly says that he is only too grateful to us for buying it.

Tony Augarde





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