Monday, February 26, 2007

Shoot the pianist

There's an interesting story breaking in the classical music world.

"Starting in 1989, Joyce Hatto began recording CDs for a small record label run by her husband. She began with Liszt, went back to cover Bach and all of the Mozart sonatas and continued with a complete Beethoven sonata set. Then on to Schubert and Schumann, Chopin and more Liszt. She played Messiaen. Her Prokofiev sonatas (all nine) were tossed off with incredible virtuosity. In total she recorded more than 120 CDs — including many of the most difficult piano pieces ever written, played with breathtaking speed and accuracy.

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

Earlier this month, a reader of the British music magazine Gramophone told one of its critics, Jeremy Distler, that something odd happened when he slid Ms. Hatto’s CD of Liszt’s “Transcendental √Čtudes” into his computer. His iTunes library, linked to a catalogue of about four million CDs, immediately identified it as a recording by the Hungarian pianist Laszlo Simon. Mr. Distler then listened to both recordings, and found them identical.

Since then, analysis by professional sound engineers and piano enthusiasts across the globe has pushed toward the same conclusion: the entire Joyce Hatto oeuvre recorded after 1989 appears to be stolen from the CDs of other pianists. It is a scandal unparalleled in the annals of classical music."

Andrys Basten has a collection of useful links to detail and background. Jessica Duchen also has a nice overview of the story in the Extra section of today's Indpendent, Notes on a Scandal.

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