By Mike Musgrove
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
The husband of a British classical pianist has confessed to plagiarizing recordings and putting them under his late wife's name, according to a report by the classical music magazine Gramophone.
Pianist Joyce Hatto gained posthumous notoriety this month when technology used as part of Apple's iTunes software revealed similarities between two recordings. The technology, which recognizes tracks on a CD that are being imported by a computer, identified a recording attributed to Hatto as an album by another performer.
Gramophone, which first reported the controversy on its Web site, retained sound engineers to analyze Hatto's CDs. The engineers found that her alleged recordings, produced under a small music label run by her husband, were identical -- down to fractions of a second -- to performances by other pianists.
Her husband, William Barrington-Coupe, denied any wrongdoing last week but later confessed to the plagiarism in a letter to the head of BIS Records, one of the labels that produced one of the plagiarized recordings, Gramophone reported.
The scandal has spread in technology and classical music circles, with music fans and techies posting more than a dozen other plagiarism allegations under Hatto's entry on Wikipedia.
The obscure pianist died last year, a result of a cancer that had prevented her from playing in public for decades. According to the magazine's editor, the letter written by Barrington-Coupe notes that Hatto was unaware of the deception and that the pilfering of recordings began when Hatto's recordings were marred by grunts of pain caused by the cancer.
A call to Barrington-Coupe's office went unanswered yesterday.
Barrington-Coupe told the magazine yesterday that he had destroyed all of his labels' recordings.
"I've closed the operation down, I've had the stock completely destroyed," he told the magazine. "Now I just want a little bit of peace."
Barrington-Coupe declined to identify for the magazine which performances were genuine and which were pilfered. It is unclear what legal consequences he might face. The British Phonographic Industry, the British equivalent to the Recording Industry Association of America, could not be reached yesterday.
Gramophone's editor, James Inverne, said it could take years before anyone knows which recordings are genuine Hatto performances. There are more than 100 recordings under her name from her husband's label, Concert Artist.
"She has definitely secured a place in music history," he said. "It would be nice if that were for the right reasons -- but we can't know what the right place is until we know more."