EXCLUSIVE: Husband of pianist in recording scandal speaks to The Crow

11:26 01 March 2012

Joyce Hatto performing

Joyce Hatto performing

Archant

THE husband of a concert pianist who was the centre of a scandal that shook the classical musical world has broken his silence.

William Barrington-Coupe, of Tall Trees in Royston, was married to the late Joyce Hatto for over 40 years and their story will soon be brought to life by the BBC.

But The Crow has uncovered the truth behind the TV show in an interview with Mr Barrington-Coupe.

Joyce Hatto was regarded as one of the greatest pianists of her age by critics at the time of her death in 2006 and obituaries praised the Royston resident and her back catalogue of acclaimed recordings.

The pianist had been forced to retire from the concert halls due to ill health and had not performed live for 30 years, but more than 100 CDs of material had been released on her husband’s Concert Artist record label.

These found fans on both sides of the Atlantic and led an American journalist to describe her as the “greatest living pianist that almost no one has ever heard of”.

But in 2007 an investigation by Gramophone magazine found that William Barrington-Coupe had doctored his wife’s recordings and had edited in the work of obscure artists.

The 81-year-old said he did it out of love for his wife, who he had been caring for since her condition worsened in the mid-70s when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

He told The Crow: “It meant so much to her. The piano to her was her complete world, her life – in particular as we had no children because of the cancer, the piano was basically everything.

“Musicians spend their life practising for something, it’s terrible if it’s taken away. I wanted to make it so it wasn’t – so she had something to live for... I wanted her to be happy.”

Mr Barrington-Coupe claimed Joyce could play the fast passages without problem, but on quieter pieces yelps of pain could be heard on the recordings and she would ask her husband to edit it out – which he said wasn’t always possible.

However critics have cast doubts on this claim as more than 90 artists have been identified online as being used in the renditions credited to Joyce Hatto.

He said: “It was the easy passages she couldn’t do. I had to take these out. We hadn’t got it, so I pinched it from other people’s recordings, it was very cleverly done.”

Before her live career was cut short, Joyce played across the country and had released several recordings and Mr Barrington-Coupe said she was the first British pianist to appear in Poland behind the Iron Curtain.

He said: “Her picture was on all the magazines in the 1950s up to the mid-1960s and she was really going well. She appeared with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and played all over the country.”

But after collapsing at a concert at the Festival Hall, Joyce was diagnosed with cancer. She retired from the public eye only to become famous when the recordings emerged.

Comedienne Victoria Wood has penned an adaptation for the BBC – entitled Loving Miss Hatto – which will tell the couple’s story. It features Francesca Annis as Joyce Hatto, the actress she told Mr Barrington-Coupe she would like to play her if a film was made of her life.

“They say there is a story here but I don’t see it,” he said.

“I can’t see it being of great interest, I was in the army and called back for Suez and I suppose I had an interesting life.

“You live with a woman happily for 30 years and I guess you don’t think you have done anything interesting.”

It was a shared love of music that brought the couple together when they met while he was doing his national service – reaching the unusually high rank of sergeant.

After meeting Joyce he knew she was the one for him and told The Crow he had never loved another woman. He still lives in their Royston home which they moved into in 1976.

And it is clear she felt the same way, telling him: “If I hadn’t met you my life would have been arid” days before her death. Mr Barrington-Coupe was not prosecuted for the recordings and now lives with his rescued grey hound Ellie who he describes as the “new woman in his life”.

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