Late pianist’s husband admits to plagiarism

Times Staff Writer

A confessional letter from the widower of little-known British pianist Joyce Hatto would seem to confirm that multiple recordings credited to Hatto, who died last year at age 77, were plagiarized.

Gramophone Online broke the news earlier this month that at least some of Hatto’s more than 100 discs had borrowed from performances by other pianists. Now the magazine reports that Hatto’s widower, William Barrington-Coupe, has penned a letter to Robert von Bahr, owner of the BIS label, acknowledging that he passed off the work of other artists as his wife’s “to give her the illusion of a great end to an unfairly overlooked career.”

Barrington-Coupe, who released the recordings on his own small label, Concert Artists, had among his borrowings lifted a segment from a BIS recording by Laszlo Simon.


In the letter, Barrington-Coupe blames his actions on the advent of the compact disc in 1983, which he says led critics to ignore the cassettes he was producing of his wife’s work. It was not until years later, Barrington-Coupe wrote, that he developed the capacity to produce CDs, and by that time Hatto, who suffered from ovarian cancer, was so ill that attempts to record her new performances were marred by her grunts of pain.

Barrington-Coupe writes that he began inserting small segments of other pianists’ recordings to cover his wife’s sounds of distress and, as he grew more adept at the practice, began editing in longer passages by others.

Allegations were first reported after Gramophone critic Jed Distler inserted a “Hatto” CD of Liszt’s “Transcendental Etudes” into his computer and iTunes software identified the recording as that of Simon for BIS.