MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Fraudulent Composers

Add another one to the list: Mamoru Samuragochi, hyped as the “Japanese Beethoven,” is apparently neither deaf nor the composer of the works that were praised as creations of a “digital-age Beethoven.” The story of his scam broke this week. According to Martin Fackler in The New York Times:

It was unclear exactly how Mr. Samuragochi duped the world since asserting he went deaf in the late 1990s. No one, it seemed, suspected the onetime child music prodigy had not composed his own work. But in past interviews with the news media, Mr. Samuragochi gave an explanation that might explain why no one ever doubted his hearing loss: He said he was completely deaf in one ear, but had some hearing in the other that was assisted by a hearing aid…. Much of Mr. Samuragochi’s appeal seemed to lie in his inspiring life story, especially for a country so fascinated by classical music.

Probably the most-famous example of ghost-writing in music is Mozart’s Requiem, paid for in advance by Count Franz Walsegg-Stuppach, a nobleman and dilettante who wanted to pass off the score as his own creation, written in memory of his wife.

There’s also a famous anecdote (which of course has its skeptics) that Mozart did his Salzburg buddy Michael Haydn (a younger brother of Joseph) a favor by pitching in to complete a project. The story goes that he dashed off the Duos for Violin and Viola (K. 423-24) to help the ailing Michael complete a set of six requested by Wolfgang’s hated former boss (the Archbishop of Salzburg).

But Michael Haydn was a bona fide composer himself — his own Requiem in C minor from 1771 left a deep impression on his younger colleague, which you can easily trace by comparing it with the Requiem Mozart undertook two decades later.

The film music industry is said to be rife with mis- or non-attributed composers. And in the world of literature we have the harrowing Doctor Faustus by Thomas Mann, whose protagonist, the tormented composer Adrian Leverkühn, “sells his soul” to write works of genius. But merely paying off a ghost-writer to con the public certainly belongs to a less-extravagant category.

What other composer-frauds do you know of?

Filed under: composers, music news

One Response - Comments are closed.

  1. Brian says:

    Rosemary Brown who passed off forgeries as works of dead masters (Chopin, Liszt, etc.) dictated to her in seances.

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