English pianist Joyce Hatto was a native of London; she studied with Hungarian pianist Ilona Kabos and Ferruccio Busoni alumnus Serge Krish. She began her piano career in the period after World War II, an era then dominated in England by luminaries such as Dame Myra Hess and Moura Lympany. In 1956, Hatto married the English record producer William Barrington-Coupe, who was head of the Saga label. Barrington-Coupe was one of the first producers to record the young Janet Baker and briefly an associate of "mad genius" producer Joe Meek. Hatto recorded for Saga, as well as other labels with which Barrington-Coupe was associated and toward the end of the 1960s began to record for EMI. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Hatto continued her career as an advocate of little-known piano music. In Britain she was known through her BBC broadcasts for her performances of obscure transcriptions by Franz Liszt and the neglected piano music of Arnold Bax and Constant Lambert. Hatto also gave concerts in Poland, where her Chopin was popular, and the USSR at a time when both nations remained behind the Iron Curtain and difficult to access.
In 1979 Hatto, already actively battling the ravages of cancer, decided to retire from the concert hall after a critic made a comment about how her chemotherapy treatments were affecting her on-stage appearance. Barrington-Coupe continued to operate a recording studio and beginning in the early '90s Hatto is said to have recorded more than 100 CDs worth of releases in an activity continuing until just three weeks before her death in June 2006. Such a recorded legacy would be more extensive, and inclusive of the general piano repertory, than that of any pianist other than Sviatoslav Richter. Some time before her death, Barrington-Coupe had begun to market Hatto's numerous recordings online through his Concert Artists/Fidelio Recordings imprint. These were widely praised critically and adopted wholeheartedly by die-hard collectors of classical piano recordings.
In February 2007, it was first revealed on the Classics Today website, and later in Gramophone Magazine -- a publication that had been among the first to trumpet the praises of Hatto -- that a listener who'd bought one of Hatto's Liszt recordings noted his digital track display identified it as being by Hungarian pianist Laszlo Simon. Likewise, Hatto's recording of Rachmaninoff piano concerti was identified by another digital reader as that by Yefim Bronfman. After that, numerous "Hatto" recordings were identified as coming from various other commercial releases, some of them minutely sped up or slowed down to disguise their provenance. At first, Barrington-Coupe denied any wrongdoing and insisted the recordings were genuine. But he eventually admitted the ruse and shut down his label, pledging not to issue further recordings. The scandal was an embarrassment to many in the classical recording industry, particularly to those reviewers who helped build the Hatto legend into a public phenomenon.