- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 27, 2007

LONDON — A classical music producer has admitted passing off recordings made by other pianists as the work of his wife, who was hailed as one of the greatest-ever British musicians when she died, the London Times reported yesterday.

William Barrington-Coupe confessed he had released music made by others under Joyce Hatto’s name because he wanted to create the illusion of a great end to an “unfairly overlooked career. ”

He said that his wife, who died last June at age 77 after a 30-year battle with cancer that prevented her from appearing in public since the 1970s, never knew what he was doing.

His deception came to light after Gramophone magazine conducted an investigation that found that four of Miss Hatto’s CDs were identical to recordings by other pianists.

“I’m desperately unhappy that foolish decisions I made then to make her last months happier have dragged her name into the mire as well,” Mr. Barrington-Coupe was quoted as saying by the Times.

Robert von Bahr, the chief executive of BIS records to whom Mr. Barrington-Coupe confessed in a letter, told the newspaper:”He did it [the fake recordings] to give his wife the recognition that he believed she had always richly deserved and to give her comfort in the last stages of her life.

“I think that she is totally stigmatized now. It is very, very sad.”

Miss Hatto made her London debut in 1952 and built a solid reputation around performances of Chopin and Liszt, but it was only in her final years that she was rediscovered by critics and described as a genius.

Mr. Barrington-Coupe reportedly decided to rerecord his wife’s repertoire for release on compact disc when she was in the advanced stages of ovarian cancer.

He wrote in the letter that she was finding her grueling practice regime “very painful” and was “making involuntary noises that would be simply too distressing for the listeners to hear.”

But then he said he remembered that soprano Elisabeth Schwarzkopf had dubbed high notes for Kirsten Flagstad in a famous recording of Richard Wagner’s “Tristan und Isolde” and started looking for pianists who sounded like Miss Hatto.

After identifying similarities with the likes of Hungarian pianist Laszlo Simon and Russian-Israeli Yefim Bronfman, he inserted patches of others’ recordings to cover his wife’s grunts, the Times said.

“I became very adept at this and, as all too often happens, gaining in confidence, I took larger portions of ready-made material to ease the editing time,” Mr. Barrington-Coupe reportedly wrote.

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