The Great Piano Scam

For those of you across the pond, tune in tonight to Channel 4’s First Cut series, when film-maker Susannah Price reveals the story behind the Joyce Hatto scam. Her documentary includes interviews with some of the duped critics and also an interview with Hatto’s partner, Barrington-Coupe, who speaks publicly for the first time about his role in the scam.

In case you missed it, here’s what happened in a nutshell:

At the time such lavish praise seemed perfectly reasonable, given that Hatto’s recordings were beginning to outsell even those of Alfred Brendel or Vladimir Ashkenazy. But one of music’s greatest shams was about to be spectacularly uncovered by a young American financier, Brian Ventura. He had transferred one of Hatto’s discs to his iPod before setting off that morning to his office on Wall Street. En route, he realised the name popping up on his screen was that of the Hungarian virtuoso Laszlo Simon, not Hatto. He immediately contacted Gramophone.

Suddenly, the music critics who had been drooling over the septuagenarian’s miraculous return from the cold ran for cover. Further forensic investigation revealed Hatto’s recordings to be ingeniously disguised fakes. Barrington-Coupe had used his technical expertise to plunder recordings by such unsuspecting virtuoso pianists as Paul Kim and Marc-André Hamelin, and reissue them under his wife’s name.

He had simply slowed down some passages, speeded up others, occasionally altered the balance between the treble and bass, and even swapped channels to reverse the stereo effect.

Read more here or here.

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