The Joyce Hatto hoax story - inevitably now dubbed "Hattogate" in certain parts of the media - has been told many times in newspapers, magazines and journals around the world, as well as being summarised on radio and TV news programmes and discussed all over the Internet. Over 100 CDs, issued over recent years, are believed to be the work of other pianists, sometimes solo, sometimes with other orchestras and conductors, and that not of Joyce Hatto.
Whilst there were a number of genuine recordings made by Joyce Hatto in the 1960's and 1970, there appears to be nothing to suggest she played on any of the more recent alleged recordings.
It has been interesting to see how different media have interpreted the story, how inaccuracies creep into one story and are then repeated in the next, and how certain sections of the press, particularly in the UK, seem to have little regard for basic fact-checking or research.
On this page I've aimed to outline the story based on my own knowledge and understanding of what happened and when, and my own involvement in the technical side of proving the fact and nature of the hoax. What then follows are the eight pages of this site, preserved more or less at the point they'd reached when William Barrington-Coupe finally began to admit his involvement in public.
The story began for me on the afternoon of Wednesday 14th February with a call from James Inverne, editor of Gramophone magazine. He'd been contacted by one of his reviewers, Jed Distler, about the possible similarities between a Hatto recording of Liszt's Transcendental Studies and one by Laszlo Simon, as well as other possible similarities - would I be able to run tests on them to confirm one way or another whether they were the same thing? After a little technical explanation as to how one might go about this he said he'd get back to me if required.
It turned out that Jed had been contacted by a reader - at this point the iTunes aspect of the story comes in - the day before. Jed had had to buy the Simon recordings as downloads from iTunes but had a copy of the Hatto CD in his possession, which iTunes identified as by Laszlo Simon (almost certainly due to someone deliberately planting the information in the Gracenotes database, in my opinion - the track timings are too dissimilar for the software to pluck Simon's BIS recording out of the many 12-track CDs it holds, though Gracenotes have denied this).
After doing his own checking, Distler contacted both Gramophone and Classics Today - he writes for both publications - with the results of his findings and listening tests. After doing their own independent listening tests, Gramophone then contacted me a second time on the afternoon of the 14th, and I prepared to get to work, liaising with Distler in New York to get the 'Hatto' tracks sent to me across the Internet to compare with Simon tracks I'd bought myself from eMusic as downloads.
For me the obvious first thing to do was look at the waveforms side by side, as shown in Part 1 of the pages which follow - this is something I do regularly in the reconstruction of recordings made on 78rpm discs - to see whether there were any obvious similarities. I was on the phone to Jed at the point when his Hatto tracks finished downloading and I opened them for the first time in the Adobe Audition audio editing software I use.
I was flabbergasted. "I don't even need to hear these to tell you they're the same," I said to Jed, "but have a listen anyway." I'd lined up the Hatto and the Simon so they'd start at the same time and play together. Holding the phone to the loudspeaker I hit play and we both heard, for the first time, the two playing together - apparently identical. It was an amazing moment, one which appeared to prove that all was not what it seemed. Obviously further research was needed, and we already knew that at least two of the 'Hatto' tracks were not taken from the Simon CD by the listening tests Jed had carried out.
I relayed this news to Gramophone by e-mail, and then set about further investigation, quickly determining some of the tonal manipulation (EQ) that had been used in the preparation of the Hatto track, suggesting this was no pressing-plant error. But what about the then mysterious fifth track - could this be genuine Hatto, or was it someone else?
The following morning I started trying to hunt down the mystery player. After numerous downloads of clips and sound files, none of which matched, I chanced upon the Nojima recording on Amazon's US site, recorded their minute-long clip, and lined it up - and there it was, albeit being played fractionally more slowly than the Hatto version. This latter discovery further cemented the case against the Hatto recordings - the Nojima had been not simply speeded up, but digitally manipulated in such a way that it retained the same pitch whilst playing faster. This discovery turned out to be a vital step in the next stage of the investigation.
Once again I relayed this back to Gramophone. We had evidence now that at least one of the Hatto CDs was faked, and that some effort had been taken to try and disguise the fakery. But Gramophone needed another CD before they felt able to print. With press deadlines looming we turned to a CD they had to hand which had very few possible sources - Godowsky's Studies on the Chopin Etudes. If there was one Hatto CD which, if fake, should be straightforward to trace, it was surely this one.
Deputy editor Martin Cullingford ripped the first three tracks into his computer and sent them over to me, uncompressed and direct from the CD. The first one had me stumped - it turned out to be Ian Hobson's Arabesque recording - but number two could be matched to Carlo Grante on Altarus, speeded up an incredible 15%. I'd already been back to Gramophone to double-check their file encoding from the Hatto CD - it simply didn't sound right, and the spectral view of the recording looked odd. Now I had a reason for this in the degree of digital time manipulation - speeding up - of the track.
There was no doubt now that these were deliberate hoaxes. The first CD we'd been tipped off about, but this was a CD chosen entirely at random, and it had the same hallmarks as the Liszt - the piano tone had been altered, and the tempo had been increased. Inverne decided to publish, with us backing up their written story with the audio evidence as presented on a page I'd quickly cobbled together so the Gramophone team could hear for themselves what I'd found.
Both pages were put online that evening, and word began to spread. The following few days were dedicated to adding further information and fielding calls from the press. Most specific to our enquiries were the orchestral recordings - again the sources were already suspected and soon confirmed. In each case I had to be 100% certain that my evidence would stand up in court, as Barrington-Coupe was denying all knowledge of the matter.
At this point the formal work for Gramophone was complete. But Hyperion Records in London wanted to know more, specifically about the possible use of one of their recordings, by Marc-André Hamelin, in the making of the Godowsky CDs, and so the detective work continued and the results added to the site, along with notes and suggestions from others around the world listening and checking.
For two weeks the media called and the website hit counter reached numbers I could only have dreamed of. I had to recite the story in my "halting" French (according to one paper) for TV, radio and newspapers, as well as in English for UK, US and Canadian radio interviews and a slew of press from all over.
Finally Barrington-Coupe made a confession of sorts, which appeared first on the Gramophone website. At the time of writing we await the next move, if there is one. Meanwhile we're preserving the Pristine Classical pages, which are presented in the order of their writing, as an online document of our part in the discovery of one of the biggest classical music news stories in modern times.
HATTO STORY LINKS:
*Sleevenotes included wherever present in original CD booklet. We provide sleevenotes either direct from record companies' digital source material or from our own scans. In the latter case we normally scan English language content and libretti only. Scanned notes pass through OCR software and can be treated as text files - all are offered as Adobe Acrobat PDFs.
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