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Hatto Hoax


This morning, (February 27th, 2007) the papers all display plenty of column inches about the 'confession' of William Barrington-Coupe, Joyce Hatto's husband. The Telegraph tells us that, despite Mr Barrington-Coupe's admissions, "Hertfordshire Police said that they would take no action unless the copyright owners of the original recordings made complaints".

His admission (which leaves many unanswered questions) comes as a letter written by Barrington-Coupe to Robert von Bahr, the head of BIS (pictured), who had already come up with a possible human explanation for the hoax, sympathetically representing it as a possible effect of Barrington-Coupe's love of his wife.

It is almost as if Barrington-Coupe has clutched onto this, as a drowning man to a piece of driftwood. His letter at first sight reads very well. Yes, he did it for love. Yes, it started off quite innocently, when he remembered that once, no less than Kirsten Flagstad's high notes had been covered by Elisabeth Schwarzkopf. And it only arose because Hatto lived at the wrong time, when her cassette recordings were no longer of interest in the CD era. And the numbers involved were small, 5000-odd records last year, 3000-odd the year before...


I am not convinced.


When Barrington-Coupe writes that the initial impetus to fake was no more than to cover his wife's 'grunts of pain' when trying to re-record the repertoire, this is transparently a stupid play for sympathy.


Any record producer or engineer will tell you that covering small mistakes or extraneous noises is far harder than splicing in a whole separate take. The need to match the ambience means that the smaller the edit, the harder it is, and covering it from a different recording, where the piano, acoustic and microphone placement are all different, is impossible. So the idea that he proceeded from small patches to larger and larger ones is the reverse of what happens in real life in the recording industry. It is on a par with the myth he propagated for her obituaries that 'three weeks before her death, Hatto recorded Beethoven's Les Adieux (farewell- geddit?) sonata sitting at the piano in her wheelchair.'


Much more true to life is Barrington-Coupe's refusal to disclose what is authentic among the recordings (since the inference is likely to be that nothing is authentic) and his plea to be left alone.

It may be that record companies (and indeed, deluded fans) will think there is no profit in pursuing this. But there is no doubt that many innocent members of the public will have been swindled. Over 8000 records sold at 12 pounds each (to take the last two years alone) is one hundred thousand pounds; an amount not to be sniffed at.


But, as von Bahr also said, Barrington-Coupe has already had plenty of time to hide the money. 


Ying Chang


For full background of the breaking scandal, see: http://www.pristineclassical.com/HattoHoax.html

& http://www.charm.rhul.ac.uk/content/contact/hatto_article.html


*Also Christopher Howell at http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2007/Feb07/Hatto_Howell.htm



and watch for comments & further updates... [Editor]

- - the whole thing shows just how much critics are influenced by extramusical considerations. (Of course, most performers realise very quickly that the audience, in part, hear what they see.)