Gramophone website reveals pianist's work was faked

Gramophone magazine found itself in the middle of a major classical music story, after it discovered that a renowned pianist's recordings were fake.

The Haymarket Media Group magazine initially championed Joyce Hatto's recordings, despite internet-based rumours that the pianist, who was first diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1970 and died last year, would not have been capable of producing such work.

Gramophone got its first clue as to the origins of the recordings when a reader tipped off its American critic Jed Distler that the Apple-based music programme iTunes had identified two Joyce Hatto pieces as the work of other pianists.

Gramophone's editor James Inverne had Hatto's recordings tested by an engineer, unearthing similarities between Hatto's work and that of established pianists. But her husband William Barrington-Coupe — who produced the records — denied hers were fake.

Gramophone broke the story on its website as its magazine was about to go to press on its April edition — a story which was followed up in the New York Times, International Herald Tribune and outlets worldwide.

Inverne said: "I was very concerned that if this story was going to come out we would be the ones to break it because we championed her."

Inverne's investigations revealed a further twist when he contacted the head of record company Bis Records, Robert Von Bahr, on the hunch that Hatto's widower might contact him.

That same morning, Barrington-Coupe had written to Von Bahr confessing that he had doctored the recordings in an attempt to give Hatto the recognition he felt she never achieved in her lifetime.

The international press followed up the story with TV and radio broadcasters such as Sky and Fox News reporting the developments.

"It was the equivalent of one of these great art scandals, when you find out a painting is by someone else," said Inverne.

"Instantly it went online it seemed to seize the media's fascination because of the characters involved and the emotional side of the story."

Inverne said the story highlighted the potential for classical music on the website which has 81,000 registered users and which experienced a rise of over 300 per cent in news pages views once the story broke.

"I'm not sure there's a classical music story that's seized the media's attention in the past 20 years more than this," said Inverne.

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