Joyce Hatto mystery solved

April 2007

Record labels

Here is a new twist in the Joyce Hatto story (which we missed last month!). Until recently Hatto (who died in 2006) had been hailed as one of Britain’s foremost classical pianists although she had retired from the concert stage some thirty years ago. But for years rumours had swirled around questions of how she could maintain such productivity and quality in her sound recordings. Her CDs were released by her husband, William Barrington Coupe, on his own label Concert Artist. Then allegations began to surface that some of the CDs were copies – and here is an example of another new development in the digital age (its not just record label woes and consumer freedoms etc). One positive advantage of new digital technology is the ease of comparing recordings. One listener had put Hatto’s recording of Liszt’s 12 “Transcendental Études” into his computer and lo and behold – his iTunes software identified the disc not as Hatto’s recording but as one by Laszlo Simon on the BIS label, originally issued in 1993 (iTunes uses a database called CDDB to identify discs using information about the number and length of the tracks). As rumours abounded, Gramaphone magazine told the ‘conspiracy theorists’ to ‘put up or shut up’ and all of a sudden other Hatto recordings came under suspicion – a recording of Brahms’s Second Piano Concerto is credited to Hatto is alleged to be that of Vladimir Ashkenazy – and claims that Hatto’s entire Ravel cycle is, in fact, the work of French pianist Roger Muraro. Ex BBC sound engineer Andrew Rose began a thorough investigation into the recordings (which can be seen at,/hattohoax.html) and the results, if true, are damning. And indeed they seem to be true! At the end of February the UK’s Telegraph newspaper revealed that Mr Barrington-Coupe been convicted of tax evasion in the UK (and had served a short prison term) and that he now withdrawn all Hatto CDs from sale – saying that this was not “with any recognition of guilt” but was because he “wanted to do something which I thought was correct”. It has also been reported that he has written to his Scandanavian record label admitting to ‘sampling’ or ‘editing in’ excerpts from other pianists recordings in Joyce’s work – and more – although at the moment no one (except Mr Barrington-Coupe) is aware of what the ‘real’ Hatto recordings are and which are those of other recording artists. See The Telegraph 24/02/06 p5, the article in the Sunday Times 04/03/07 (News Review) p3 and see the Boston Globe on this story at And see

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