Joyce Hatto's Asians

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Joyce Hatto's Asians

Post by pianoman »

From roughly 2003-2009, a British record producer named William Barrington-Coupe released over 100 classical piano recordings he claimed were made by his wife, a moderately successful concert pianist from the 50s to the mid-70s named Joyce Hatto. The recordings were lavishly praised by the classical music establishment, but in 2007 were exposed as fraudulent. As of this writing, 43 of the recordings have been digitally matched to existing recordings by other pianists. Roughly 15% of these known plagiarisms contain material recorded by Asian pianists, either single tracks or entire composition cycles.

Wiki is here.
Short (23 minutes) documentary here.

William Barrington-Coupe

Joyce Hatto

Barrington-Coupe seemed to select obscure but exceptional recordings to plagiarize. (Although it should be stated for the record that several well-known pianists such as Vladimir Ashkenazy, Marc-Andre Hamelin, John Browning and Sergei Babayan also fell victim to his scheme.) While one could spend much time debating the morality of such large-scale artistic appropriation, it has not been lost that the net result of the scandal was the promotion of many obscure pianists who otherwise had gone unnoticed, and that, in a strange way, having a recording of yours deemed good enough to steal is something of a compliment.

There are a few interesting tidbits in this story. First, the Joyce Hatto releases did not rise to prominence in some obscure corner of the classical music world; they were actively and vigorously defended by some of the most established classical music critics in the world. After Gramaphone Magazine published a long article about Hatto in 2006, some of their readers wondered how it would be possible for a pianist who had not performed for decades to suddenly produce volume after volume of high-quality material. A critic for Gramaphone asked doubters to present evidence for their accusations that would "stand up in a court of law." The Boston Globe called her "the greatest living pianist that almost no one has ever heard of." A radio station in New Zealand put together an hour-long program about Hatto that included a telephone interview they did with her. Tom Deacon, a producer for Phillips who worked on the Great Pianists of the 20th Century series is on record praising and criticizing the same recording, the Chopin Etudes played by Yuki Matsuzawa: ... me_record/
Many of the Hatto Chopin Etudes (including Op.10 Nos. 1, 3, 4 (C♯ minor), 5 (Black Key), and 10) are rip-offs of Yuki Matsuzawa's performances [1]. Tom Deacon, the producer of Philips Great Pianists of the 20th Century series, produced the following evaluations:

Matsuzawa: Faceless, typewriter, neat as a pin but utterly flaccid performances with small, tiny poetic gestures added like so much rouge on the face of a Russian doll. … Nothing could possibly equal the faceless, spineless, ever-so-tasteful performances of Ms. Matsuzawa. She is the very model of Lily Tomlin's much admired tasteful lady. [4]

Hatto: My oh my, this is a beautiful recording of Chopin's music. The pieces flow so naturally and so completely without precious effects that you might, for a moment, think that there are no other ways of reading the music. … In Op. 10 No. 1 the right hand is fluent, flawless, clear as a bell, but the real story is the LH, which carries the interest of the piece anyway. The central episode in No. 3 is dramatic, but the drama doesn't overwhelm the A section, either the first or second time round. The C♯ minor, a knucklebuster if ever there was one, is played as a true Presto, but punctuated with all kinds of wondrous LH details. The first black key etude has fluttering RH detail, but again, it is the LH which is truly eloquent. …The A flat major, Op. 10 No. 10, restores all of Chopin's carefully notated differenciation between one section and another, a veritable study in the ability to vary detached sounds.[5]
The scandal also inspired two novels and a film. One of the novels was written by a French-Vietnamese woman named Minh Tran Huy, called "The Double Life of Anna Song." It appears to be a romanticization of Barrington-Coupe and Hatto's relationship, and does not concern itself with the fact that dozens of real pianists, many of whom are Asian, had their work stolen from them.

So, without further ado, here are all the confirmed recordings made by Asian pianists that Barrington-Coupe felt were good enough to rip off. Links to purchase the recordings are provided below. Over time, I will review the most significant of them in this thread:

1) Paul Kim, Messiaen's Vingt regards sur l'enfant-Jésus
Available here.

This is the obvious #1. The thought that some unheard of pianist could just casually learn this work--what many consider the "holy grail" of classical piano--is ridiculous. Kim is, I believe, a Korean-American pianist from California. He studied at Julliard, the Manhattan School of Music, and did his PhD at NYU. He is a Messiaen specialist, and this recording is volume 2 of a seven-CD set of Messiaen's complete piano music. Yvonne Loriod, Messiaen's widow, has praised his interpretations. He is currently working on an original piano transcription of the complete Beethoven symphonies.

2) Yuki Matsuzawa, Chopin's Etudes (except Op.10 Nos.2 & 6, Op.25 Nos.1 and 7–12)
Amazon's placeholder here.
This is the recording mentioned above. Japanese pianist who studied with Ashkenazy.

3) Izumi Tateno, Debussy's Preludes
Unfortunately unable to find a place to buy this disc. Tateno's fan base is in Japan and Finland, so perhaps no distribution in the States. Apparently this entire recording was pirated. Tateno, of course, is on the banner of this website and has his own thread here:

4) Chen Pi-hsien, Bach's Goldberg Variations
A 2010 version by Chen available here. Not sure if this is a reissue of the same recording or a new version.

The theme and first five variations have been digitally matched. Chen's parents fled to Taiwan from mainland China after Mao defeated the KMT in 1949. She was sent to study piano in Germany at the age of nine, and lives and teaches there now.

5) Minoru Nojima, Liszt's Transcendental Etude No. 5

6) Noriko Ogawa, Debussy's La plus que Lente

7) Chitose Okashiro, Scarlatti Sonatas

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Re: Joyce Hatto's Asians

Post by pianoman »

Here is the New York Times' original article on the scandal from 2007: ... 12389.html ... gewanted=2
The Joyce Hatto Scandal - Opinion - International Herald Tribune

Denis Dutton

Published: Sunday, February 25, 2007

It seemed almost too good to be true, and in the end it was. A talented, conscientious pianist who had enjoyed an active if undistinguished career in Britain falls ill and retreats to a small town. Here in the last years of her life she launches a project to record virtually the entire standard repertoire for the piano. Her recordings, CDs made in her late sixties and seventies, are staggering, showing a masterful technique, a preternatural ability to adapt to different styles, and a depth of musical insight hardly seen elsewhere.

Born in 1928, Joyce Hatto was the daughter of a music-loving London antique dealer. As a teenager she kept on practicing during the Blitz, hiding under the piano, she said, when the bombs were falling.

She claimed later to know Vaughn- Williams, Benjamin Britten and Carl Orff, to have studied Chopin with Alfred Cortot, and taken advice from Clara Haskil. She was Sir Arnold Bax's favored interpreter for his Symphonic Variations. Hatto even made recordings from the 1950s till 1970 — some Mozart and the Rachmaninoff 2nd concerto, but tending toward light-music pot-boilers: The Cornish Rhapsody and Richard Addinsell's Warsaw Concerto.

However, her career was already in decline when she was diagnosed with cancer in 1972. She retired to a village near Cambridge with her recording-engineer husband, William Barrington-Coupe, and a fine old Steinway that Rachmaninoff himself had used for prewar recitals in Britain.

Then, one of the strangest turns in the history of classical music. Starting in 1989, Joyce Hatto began recording CDs for a small record label run by her husband.

Beginning with Liszt, she went back to cover Bach, all of the Mozart sonatas and continued with a complete Beethoven sonata set. Then on to Schubert and Schumann, Chopin and Liszt. She played Messiaen. She tossed off Prokofiev sonatas (all nine) with incredible virtuosity. In total she recorded over 120 CDs — including many of the most difficult piano pieces ever written, played with breathtaking speed and accuracy.

She gave to the music a developed although oddly changeable personality. She could do Schubert in one style, and then present Prokofiev almost as though she was a new person playing a different piano. It seemed an astonishing, chameleon-like artistic ability.

We normally think of prodigies as children who exhibit some kind of preternatural ability in music. Joyce Hatto became something unheard of in the annals of classical music: a middling-grade pianist who, late in life and afflicted with cancer, had experienced an astonishing burst of musical energy.

This energy, coupled with a ripening sense of musical insight, had transformed her into a unique phenomenon in the music history. She had become a prodigy of old age, the very latest of late bloomers, "the greatest living pianist that almost no one has heard of," as Richard Dyer put it in the Boston Globe.

Little wonder that when she at last succumbed to her cancer in 2006 at age 77 — recording Beethoven's Les Adieux from a wheelchair in her last days — the Guardian called her "one of the greatest pianists Britain has ever produced."

Nice touch, that playing Beethoven's Farewell sonata from a wheelchair. It went along with her image as an indomitable spirit, and was further supported by long radio and print interviews which put on display her utterly charming personality. Joyce Hatto came across as bubbly, confident, witty; a bit boastful perhaps, but obviously obsessed with her performing art.

She also had clear visions of the mission of musical interpreters like herself, telling the Boston Globe a year before her death, "Our job is to communicate the spiritual content of life as it is presented in the music. Nothing belongs to us; all you can do is pass it along."

Now it has become brutally clear that "passing along" is exactly what she was up to.
Responding to a tip from a reader, a critic with the British Gramophone magazine, Jeremy Distler, slid Joyce Hatto's CD of Liszt's Transcendental Etudes into his computer. His iTunes library, linked to a catalogue of about four million CDs, immediately identified it as a recording by the Hungarian virtuoso Laszlo Simon.

Since then, further analysis by both professional sound engineers and piano recording enthusiasts across the globe has pushed toward the same conclusion: the entire Joyce Hatto oeuvre recorded from 1989 on appears to be stolen from the CDs of other pianists. The experts have yet to discover a single original CD in the set. It is a scandal unparalleled in the annals of classical music.

Hatto usually targeted artists who were not household names, though on the basis of the reviews she received, they richly deserve to be. Her Chopin Mazurkas are by Eugen Indjic, the fiendishly difficult Godowsky-Chopin studies are recordings by the Italian pianist Carlo Grante and Marc-Andre Hamelin, her Messiaen by Paul S. Kim, her "brilliant" account of the Chopin etudes by Yuki Matsuzawa, the Bach Goldberg Variations at least in part by Chen Pi- Hsien, the complete Ravel piano music by Roger Muraro, her Rachmaninoff Preludes by the late John Browning. As reports come in, the rip-off list grows daily.

Her concerto recordings are even more brazen. They were said to be made with oddly-named "National Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra," always conducted by one René Köhler. William Barrington- Coupe told an Australian interviewer last year that this was his name for a private pick-up orchestra of Polish émigrés who came out from London to record at a venue he now refuses to reveal. No one has yet been able to find a single reference to "René Köhler" outside of the Joyce Hatto recordings, nor have any members of the orchestra come forward to confirm Barrington-Coupe's claims.

In a rapturous review of Hatto's Rachmaninoff Third Concerto, one critic compared it to versions by Byron Janis and Martha Argerich, saying that Hatto "receives outstanding support" from the orchestra. "It doesn't matter who they are, their playing is tight and hot."

Actually, it does matter, since they have turned out to be the Philharmonia Orchestra of London, conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen. The comparison of Hatto to Janis and Argerich is not far off, however, since the real pianist is the formidable Yefim Bronfman. Her version of the Brahms Second Concerto is Vladimir Ashkenazy's, with the Vienna Philharmonic under Bernard Haitink.

Joyce Hatto was not a pianistic forger. In order to forge a piano performance, she would, for example, have had to record Beethoven's Hammerklavier sonata herself and sell it to the world as a lost recording by Artur Rubinstein.

She was instead a plagiarist: she stole other pianists' work from published CDs and, with only a few electronic alterations, sold them as her own.

Critics may have been fooled by her, but their opinions were not foolish, because the mostly younger artists she ripped off represented genuine pianistic talent. The playing was excellent indeed.

So when Richard Dyer wrote in the Boston Globe in 2005 of the "sadness as well as glitter" in her Chopin Waltzes and the "operatic vocality and fluidity" in her Mozart Sonatas, he was entirely correct about the performances.

Who can blame him for being wrong about the pianist? Forgery is common in art, and plagiarism is found in literary history, but the kind of fakery Hatto presented has till now been unknown on this scale in classical music.

The Joyce Hatto episode is a stern reminder of the importance of framing and background in criticism. Music isn't just about sound, it is about achievement in a larger human sense. If you think an interpretation is by a 74-year-old pianist at the end of her life, it won ' t sound quite the same as if you think it ' s by a 24-year-old piano-competition winner who is just starting out.

Beyond all the pretty notes, we want creative engagement and communication from music, we want music to be a bridge to another personality. Otherwise, we might as well feed Chopin scores into a computer.

This all makes instrumental criticism a tricky business. I'm personally convinced that there is an authentic, objective maturity that I can hear the later recordings of Rubinstein. This special quality of his is actually in the music, and is not just subjectively derived from seeing the wrinkles in the old man's face.

But the Joyce Hatto episode shows that our expectation, our knowledge of a back-story, can subtly, or perhaps even crudely, affect aesthetic response.

The greatest lesson for us all ought to be, however, that there are more fine young pianists out there than most of us credit. If it wasn't Joyce Hatto, then who did perform those dazzlingly powerful Prokofiev sonatas? Having been so moved by hearing "her" Schubert on the radio, I've vowed to honor the real pianist by ordering the proper CD as soon as I find out who it is. So good is bound to come out of this.

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