Joyce Hatto

Pianist hailed as a national treasure


Joyce Hilda Hatto, pianist and teacher: born London 5 September 1928; married 1956 William Barrington-Coupe; died Royston, Hertfordshire 29 June 2006.

The pianist Joyce Hatto was a child of the Blitz, a contributor to a post-war musical landscape peopled by Myra Hess, Solomon and Clifford Curzon, as well as her friends Kathleen Ferrier and Eileen Joyce. Hers was an inspirational presence, quiet and unforced. She had been out of the public eye for 30 years, after being diagnosed with cancer in 1970, but her legacy is a large and remarkable body of late recordings, which ensures her a place in the collective consciousness.

Brought up in north-west London, Hatto studied during the Second World War with the pianist and conductor Serge Krish. Krish developed a passion for Bach, Beethoven and Liszt, and introduced her to London's émigré Russian circle: "I became friendly with Benno Moiseiwitsch and I was made very welcome in that family and the whole group of quite exceptional musicians."

Subsequently she went to Ilona Kabos and Zbigniew Drzewiecki (in Warsaw); took advice from Alfred Cortot, Clara Haskil and Sviatoslav Richter; and sought insight from Nadia Boulanger, Paul Hindemith and Mátyás Seiber. Cortot left a particular impression. "To him being a musician meant making music, communicating music, and bringing the composer and his music to life."

During the 1950s Hatto championed various British composers, including Arnold Bax, Arthur Bliss, Constant Lambert and Alan Rawsthorne. She also gained a reputation as a Liszt and Chopin player - her marathons including the first public account of the complete Beethoven-Liszt symphony. Evaluating her work at the time, the Chopin scholar Arthur Hedley observed:

Joyce Hatto is unusual . . . among English pianists, in understanding the darker side of the composer. She does not strive for pretty effects and her projection of Chopin as a "big" composer sets her aside from most of her contemporaries. It is a considerable achievement of will that she never allows her own forceful personality to intrude on that of the composer.

Up to 1979, when illness (and an ungallant critic) forced her retirement from the public stage, Hatto devoted herself to recitals at the Wigmore Hall and South Bank Centre, international touring, and private teaching. Her trips abroad, of which she had fond memories, took her especially to the Iron Curtain countries and Scandinavia - critics admiring not only her facility, musicality and large-scale thinking but also her "ability to coax so many different sounds from her instrument".

Diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1970, she spent the final third of her life oscillating between recovery, relapse and recording. The CDs she released on the Concert Artist label (over a hundred since 1989) bear witness to superhuman energy and diversity of repertory: Bach's "48"; the complete sonatas of Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Prokofiev; cycles of solo Chopin, Schumann, Brahms and Rachmaninov; the Chopin-Godowsky Studies; Hindemith's Ludus Tonalis; the concertos of Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Saint-Saëns and Rachmaninov; some wonderful Scarlatti; and Bax's Symphonic Variations with Vernon Handley and the Guildford Philharmonic.

All were conveyed with integrity, fine taste, and high-definition polish. Exceptional tonal quality, shaping a Classical line, elegant phrase endings, knowing how to place and time a Romantic climax were the hallmarks of Hatto's pianism, along with some of the most beautiful trills and ornaments on record.

The inexplicability, the tragedy of Hatto's career was why so many for so long failed to credit her achievement. In her youth she may have worked with Sabata, Beecham, Kletzki, Martinon and others. And Neville Cardus may have called her "a British pianist to challenge the German supremacy in Beethoven and Brahms", but she was never to become a BBC "star". No recording moguls took her up; the Establishment looked away; the London orchestras cold-shouldered her, and the media remained indifferent or cynical. Vendettas were waged. She said it didn't matter, that the music business was "a jungle" anyway - yet the hurt ran deep.

Not until the renaissance of her very last years were things to change for the better - for which she had to thank internet exposure, a generation of open-minded pianophiles, and a landmark appraisal from Frank Siebert in the German magazine Fono Forum ("she makes music without imposed superlatives"). Her contemporary the American pianist Ivan Davis, in his day student and friend of Vladimir Horowitz, sums her up as the British "national treasure" of her era:

I know of no pianist in the world who is her superior musically or technically. She gives one an audio blueprint of the score - never changing the composer's instructions but setting them forth though her personal vision, poetically and passionately. I think she will have extraordinary posthumous acclaim.

In old age a slight, drawn figure of girlish voice and impeccable courtesies - spiritually the great-granddaughter of Liszt, pianistically the granddaughter of Busoni and Paderewski, poetically the niece of Rachmaninov and Mark Hambourg - Joyce Hatto was an artist of strong views and self-belief: Urgeist before Urtext, spirit before letter, composer before editor or performer. Never mind about the limelight, she used to say, get the message across, "draw" people in, "play what the composer has taken so much trouble to write down".

Ates Orga

News
The current recommendation from Britain's Chief Medical Officer, is that people refrain from drinking on at least two days a week
food + drinkTheory is that hangovers are caused by methanol poisoning
Life and Style
techConcept would see planes coated in layer of micro-sensors and able to sense wear and tear
News
Patrick Stewart in the classiest ice bucket to date
people
News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Software Developer (Java /C# Programmer)- London

£30000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A global investment management fi...

Senior Network Engineer-(CCIE, CCNP, Cisco, London)

£65000 - £75000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-(CCIE, CC...

Senior Network Analyst - (CCIE, Cisco, CISSP)

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Analyst - (CCIE, C...

Senior Network Engineer-(Design, Implementation, CCIE)

£60000 - £80000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-(Design, ...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition