March 04, 2007
Yes, I lied about Joyce. Now I’ll face the music
In his first interview the husband who made Joyce Hatto an international celebrity by faking her piano recordings tells Ann McFerran why he did it, and how he is coming to terms with being found out
William Barrington-Coupe slips a CD into a modest-looking machine and raises his index finger in the air. “There!” he says triumphantly after a minute or so. “Can you hear it?”
A sprightly 76-year-old in cavalry twills and tweed sports jacket, Bar-rington-Coupe isn’t referring to the magnificent rendition of Bach’s Gold-berg Variations that is now overwhelming the room. He is speaking of an almost inaudible (to me, anyway) sound that, when I do finally hear it, is like a sigh or a little cry.
It was these sounds, which Bar-rington-Coupe says were gasps of pain emitted by his late wife the virtuoso pianist Joyce Hatto in the throes of a long and painful cancer, that set her husband and record producer on a trail of deception and fraud that has rocked the world of classical music.
Sitting in what was once Joyce’s music room and latterly her bedroom, Barrington-Coupe looks an unlikely conman, even though he has a history of fraud, having been jailed for tax evasion in the 1960s. With his wild grey hair and mournful tone, he exudes the air of a retired music master who doesn’t quite know what to do with himself since the death of his beloved wife.
Hatto’s Steinway piano, which once belonged to Rachmaninov, dominates the room. On the floor lie piles of her CDs, spilling out of boxes, still in their wrappers. On every surface sits something of Joyce’s: her concert programmes, her photographs, her letters and papers, a pile of her gloves ready for the charity shop.
On the piano stool sits a box containing Joyce’s ashes. Her grieving husband still can’t decide what to do with them. The couple had few friends, he says, because they needed only each other. Barrington-Coupe seems not so much lonely as adrift, the purpose of his life, caring for his wife, ebbing into deep but distant memories.
From The Sunday Times