Flashback to Sesame Street

Do you remember that song, “One of these things is not like the others”? Thanks to the Register I’ve got that stuck in my head, mostly because of a news story they just ran where the exact opposite is the case.

It seems that, a couple years ago, recordings from a relatively obscure British pianist named Joyce Hatto got rave reviews in the Boston Globe and the Guardian. She had a tragic life story: prolonged illness had prevented her from performing publicly for nearly thirty years, but during that time she was able to make studio recordings. According to her husband, “She doesn’t want to play in public because she never knows when the pain will start, or when it will stop, and she refuses to take drugs.” Despite this, she was able to amass a catalog of about a hundred discs before her death in 2006. These were sold through the “Concert Artists Recordings” record label, which was owned and operated by her husband.

Then things started to unravel. Last week, British music news site Gramophone released their analysis of several Joyce Hatto “recordings”: every single track was stolen from somewhere else. They’d asked an audio engineer from Pristine Classical to analyze several of her discs, and in every case he was able to demonstrate that the “Hatto” tracks were digitally manipulated versions of other people’s recordings.

The story is still playing out. Hatto’s husband has strongly denied the accusations, but more and more people are looking at their discs and discovering that they’ve got the same song elsewhere, just sped up or slowed down slightly. And after listening to the examples that Pristine Classical put up, I’ve got to agree. These two things are exactly like each other. These two things are completely the same.

Update: According to a news update, Hatto’s husband has partially admitted to the hoax.

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