by Miles Raymer
I know it's hard to believe, but the classical music world's been getting real interesting. Over the last year a British pianist named Joyce Hatto (who passed away in June) has developed something of a cult following on the strength of a series of recordings issued on a small label called Concert Artist that just happens to be run by her husband, W. H. Barrington-Coupe. Gramophone magazine describes the phenomenon thusly: "To love Hatto recordings was to be in the know, a true piano aficionado who didn’t need the hype of a major label’s marketing spend to recognise a good, a great, thing when they heard it." The problem, as it turns out, is Hatto apparently didn't record any of the pieces people have been freaking out over.
Gramophone had a lot to do with kicking off the Hatto craze, and they're also taking point on uncovering the hoax. They hired an audio engineer to analyze a sample batch of Hatto recordings and found that the performances attributed to her were just tracks taken from other albums. Some were digitally manipulated—re-equalized and pitch-shifted—and some appear to be exactly the same. The fact that most of the stolen recordings were released in the recent past and on much bigger labels—presumably the type of releases critics should at least be sort of familiar with—kinda makes all of classical music criticism look bad. I personally think it's hilarious, but even better is the way the whole scheme was uncovered. It wasn't a sharp-eared listener or a critic with a hunch. It was some guy who put a Hatto disc into his computer only to have iTunes' automatic track-naming feature pull up the record the songs were stolen from.
A note to future scammers and musical thieves: when ripping people off, make sure you cover up the most obvious clues. Dumbass.