2007-02-26

Hatto Hoax confirmed by Husband

James Inverne of Gramophone (Feb 26) relates a new development in the Joyce Hatto story I shared earlier this week.

In an amazing turn of events, Gramophone has learned of a letter sent from William Barrington-Coupe to the head of BIS records in which he makes a full confession of his wrongdoing in the Joyce Hatto affair. Gramophone subsequently contacted Barrington-Coupe, who confirmed that he stands by the letter’s contents.

It was Gramophone that first revealed how several of the recordings released by Barrington-Coupe under his late wife’s name were identical to other recordings by a range of pianists on different labels. A media storm ensued, with most of the world’s major media outlets reporting the scandal. Amidst it all, Barrington-Coupe denied all allegations of wrongdoing and insisted that he was present at all major sessions, and that the discs were all his wife’s work.

The truth, we now know from his own pen, is different. Robert von Bahr’s BIS records had one of the first identified cases of duplication – the “Hatto” recording of Liszt’s Transcendental Studies exactly matched the soundwaves on Laszlo Simon’s BIS recording. And it was to von Bahr whom Barrington-Coupe wrote his letter of confession. [...] In the letter, Barrington-Coupe explains that he did indeed pass off other people’s recordings as his wife’s, but that he did it to give her the illusion of a great end to an unfairly (as he terms it) overlooked career.
Barrington-Coupe's story raises more questions than it answers, but he appears to be as resistant to making admissions now as he was before the hoax was exposed.
He received a prison sentence in 1966 for failure to pay purchase tax. Whether this throws doubt on his confession now, made only after our revelations and in the light of the fact that he continued to release “Hatto” recordings after his wife’s death, is open to debate.

What music lovers will want, and what he must surely now provide (together, where possible, with witnesses who can verify), is a full and accurate list of which Joyce Hatto recordings actually feature Joyce Hatto, and which other artists were involved where appropriate. Only then will we know how good she actually was, and only then can at least some of her reputation be salvaged. When asked to do this, Barrington-Coupe replied that he didn’t want to go down that road, adding, “I’m tired, I’m not very well. I’ve closed the operation down, I’ve had the stock completely destroyed, and I’m not producing any more. Now I just want a little bit of peace.”

The complete report appears at Gramophone. Inverne promises updates as they become available.

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