Pianophiles, you’ve been Hattoed

Tuesday 20 February 2007

From the sublime to the ridiculous: the previous post came out of my researching this one.
National pride is all well and good, but British classical music buffs are notoriously partisan. No praise is too fulsome for a doughty wind band from Bournemouth or church organist in Beccles, all of whom are favourably compared to their foreign counterparts and their somewhat suspect techniques. No wonder so many music critics were beside themselves when they discovered the late-blossoming career of the Cambridge-based pianist Joyce Hatto.
Over the past year the British Gramophone magazine has been one of the most ardent champions of the 100-odd CDs recorded in the last 15 years of her life, after illness had forced her to abandon her concert career; alternately praising her and denouncing her critics in its quaint house style.
Gramophone, December 2006:

Hatto takes her place among the greats. Joyce Hatto’s CD legacy may be mired in controversy (“the forgeries of jealousy”?) but there is nothing controversial about recordings which surely place her among an elite of women pianists (only six artists of comparable stature spring to mind).

Gramophone, 2006 Awards:

Doubting Thomases, of which there are apparently many, may well wonder how Joyce Hatto achieved such unalloyed mastery and musicianship when tragically beset with ill-health. But others will surely celebrate an awe-inspiring triumph of mind over matter, of the indomitable nature of the human spirit.

But then came 15 February 2007, when Gramophone published this sad revelation on its website:

It would take many weeks of intensive work to examine all of the Hatto recordings, but it seems clear that at least some of these great performances are identical to other performances available from other recording companies.

According to Andrew Rose, who investigated the hoax for Gramophone, the list of CDs by other pianists plagiarised by Hatto (or plagiarised in her name by her record-producer husband) is growing every day, as enthusiasts track down the matching source material.
The cranky old men who populate rec.music.classical.recordings on Usenet have descended into even wilder name-calling than usual, with hilarious use of quotations of previous Hatto praise to deflate some of the more obnoxious resident egos.

More cogent discussions are being tracked at Iron Tongue of Midnight.

Opera Chic offers her typically pertinent observation on the scandal, being the first to call out Hatto’s “Jetsons-style” bouffant.