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This page considers forgery and fraud in music and other performance.

It covers -

It supplements discussion elsewhere on this site of regarding moral rights.

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Pop group Milli Vanilli was exposed in 1990 as having been dubbed by anonymous studio singers, resulting in loss of their Grammy award.

The boy band had sold 30 million singles and 11 million albums but at a 1989 live concert in Connecticut the recording of Girl You Know It's True jammed, causing one line to repeat ... and repeat. It became clear that the singers had merely been lip synching.

One half of the duo revealed in 1990 that he had not been involved in the recording, prompting class action lawsuits from record buyers and concert goers.

In 2007 it was revealed that many recordings by UK pianist Joyce Hatto (1928-2006) were in fact recordings by other pianists such as Lazlo Simon, Eugen Indjic, Yefim Bronfman, Minoru Nojima and Carlo Grante. By late 2007 it was clear that perfomances by Hatto were in fact those by some 68 pianists and that collaborators such as supposed conductor René Köhler were non-existent.

Hatto was promoted as a neglected genius and the "greatest living pianist that almost no one has ever heard of" but is likely to be remembered as the name in front of a clumsy fraud, initially detected when metadata in recordings on CD identified the performer as someone else.

Some reviews quoted by her promoter appear to have been concocted, as were claims that she became the preferred interpreter of Arnold Bax, worked with Vaughan Williams and Britten and had been praised by Hindemith as possessing

a technique beyond prestidigitation … Her wonderful independence of line would surely have seduced Johann Sebastian into composing another 'Forty Eight' just for her.

Such claims presumably contributed to characterisation of Hatto as "the Baroness Munchhausen of classical music".

Denis Dutton commented that in Hatto's supposed late-life project to record most of the standard classical repertoire her performance showed

a masterful technique, a preternatural ability to adapt to different styles and a depth of musical insight hardly seen elsewhere.... 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.

It is now clear that there were different people using different pianos, none of whom were named Hatto. Andrew Rose commented

There are a lot of critics and publications with egg on their faces. ... She was almost a cult figure and people wanted to believe her story. The idea was that she had cancer and didn't want to be seen so her husband built a studio for her, but nobody explained how they managed to squeeze an entire orchestra in there. It's just jaw-dropping and so outrageous and audacious it's almost impossible to believe it's been done.

As of September 2007 there appears to have been no litigation by record companies (unauthorised copying and editing of their disks), by the individuals whose performances were blithely appropriated (moral rights) or by consumer protection bodies.

Questions of sincerity rather than appropriation are explored in Faking It: the quest for authenticity in popular music (London: Faner 2007) by Hugh Barker & Yuval Taylor.

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