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February 26, 2007

"A prodigy of old age"

My wife is an excellent amateur pianist, and I've told her that whenever I retire, I'd like her to teach me piano. I mean it seriously, but there's sort of a built-in joke, because there are some skills, like language and instrumental music, that are hard to pick up when you're an adult, let alone a retired adult.

An op-ed in the New York Times today concerns Joyce Hatto, who "became something unheard of in the annals of classical music: a prodigy of old age — the very latest of late bloomers," when she retired to a small town later in life and then recorded over 120 CDs on a label run by her husband.

It's a wonderful story. Wonderful, because it turns out Ms. Hatto simply stole the recordings of other pianists, mostly younger pianists who were not widely known. As Denis Dutton, author of the op-ed, drolly notes, "Intriguingly, she gave to the music a developed although oddly malleable personality. She could do Schubert in one style, and then Prokofiev almost as though she was a new person playing a different piano — an astonishing, chameleon-like artistic ability."

The title of Dutton's piece is "Shoot the Piano Player."

UPDATE (2/27): Hatto's widower has confessed. And it turns out there's a Hatto fraud website.