An Archive Tour

The Durbeck Archive Statistics


The Durbeck Archive is primarily a repertory-based documentation of world composers and their classical vocal works as issued on long playing phonograph records during the LP era, ca.1950-1990 - in all editions. The categories of these classical vocal works include all of the art song literature, all operas, all choral compositions, all symphonic compositions which include vocal parts and other ad hoc, loosely associated, classically attributed vocal works. The chronology of The Durbeck Archive documents about 1700 Years (III-XX Centuries) of classical vocal music in the development of Western Civilization and Culture - specializing in opera and music drama. The Durbeck Archive is essentially the classical vocal "soundtrack" for this era on long playing records.

The fundamental intent of The Durbeck Archive, in the realm of classical vocal music on LP, is to have at least "one of everything," for example, at least one recording of every Schubert song; at least one recording of every Mozart opera; at least one recording of every Bach cantata and mass et cetera.

All LPs are purchased based on the content of their repertoire. An LP will often be selected solely for the inclusion of a single song by an obscure composer, even when performed by a lesser known vocal artist. The purpose is to represent the composer and the song in The Durbeck Archive, not to restrict the roster of artists to the "famous" and "more famous." The singer is important, but the diversity of the music is the rudimentary foundation for the musical corpus of The Durbeck Archive - prima la musica.

Following the "one of everything" principle, accumulating the widest possible variety of performing artists is of collateral importance in The Durbeck Archive.  After a single musical selection has been obtained by a single performer, a second or third - ad infinitum - performance of the same work is important for the sake of a comparative stylistic performance legacy.  For the student, historian, biographer, bibliographer, discographer, researcher or pedagogue, such comparative listening is an invaluable observance for historical cultural and ethnic studies in terms of musical interpretation, vocal technique, musicianship, era stylization and other  various eccentricities of all vocal performance.  The Durbeck Archive does muster a world-class multi-national roster of singers.

Thinking "outside the groove," The Durbeck Archive is to the LP what the Library of Congress is to the "book" in terms of being an important "first edition" repository. While a paperback edition of Tom Sawyer or Gone With The Wind, will have the same textual equality as a first edition, it is the first edition which adds sociological, academic and collector value beyond the mere content of the novel. Moreover, the owning of subsequent editions, beyond the first edition, further extends the exponential value of the publishing history of any major publication or recording. Concomitantly, LPs in The Durbeck Archive are treated as prized artifacts with due respect and consideration given to all facets of an LP's being - "inside the groove" or "outside the groove."

The packaging and jacket art of the LP industry has been largely ignored by museum curators and institutional librarians as a publication artform unto itself.  However, edition variations of the printed collateral provide an important contribution to the significance and understanding of the recorded music in terms of the musical and cultural information conveyed. These literary conveyances, generically known as "liner notes," have often been written by prominent authors, generally not associated with musical writing; for example, one by Aldous Huxley on Renaissance music. These liner notes are often solitary literary excursions into this venue and are almost never re-published in other scholarly publications. The Durbeck Archive archives LPs from the inception of the LP as a consumer item. These include not only domestic (USA) labels, but internationally produced LP labels as well.  The packaging and jacket art from the earliest produced LPs to the present, is a catalogue of artistic variety and aesthetic license; consider, one LP jacket was designed  by Salvador Dali specifically for an individual LP release. This "outside the groove" adventure conveys an entire cultural milieu which transcends the mere music in the groove.  Thousands of these jacket and packaging artworks are represented in The Durbeck Archive.  Now consider a first edition of Gone With The Wind without an original dust jacket:  the value is substantially diminished. Consider thousands of rare LPs with their "dust jackets" and other original packaging:  The Durbeck Archive is a formidable "first edition library." 

Consider, again, the value of Gone With The Wind,  with the dust jacket, but now autographed by the author!  Imagine that this book, being in the presence of the author and at the same time, being personally autographed by the author's own hand.  There is a historical presence amalgamated here by the time/space continuum of this event. The Durbeck Archive considers such a signing as an endorsement of an author's legacy.   In the 50 year history of The Durbeck Archive development, autographs have been obtained by thousands of  composers, singers, conductors and accompanists, directors, librettists, liner note musicologists even including jacket design artists and others. The largest majority of these autographs are on LP jackets and books. Also included in The Durbeck Archive are many personal letters and autographed photos.  This personal touch of autographs is a spiritual link to the epochs of many artistic careers, all represented in The Durbeck Archive, documenting the legacy of the LP era.


Documenting Complete Opera

Recordings of the LP Era


A Catalogue Raisonné

The raison d'être of The Durbeck Archive is to physically own every possible complete opera recording appearing on the LP (long playing, 33 1/3 rpm) format, both commercially issued and privately issued. Currently the Archive contains about 8,500+ complete operas, about 15,000 classical vocal recital LPs, about 8,000 choral LPs, about 3,000 books and about 1,000+ videos.

The reason for the 'LP restriction' is that there were (ostensibly) a finite number of operas pressed and issued during this period, from 1950 to 1990. Therefore, it is not unreasonable (although, unlikely) that all of these opera recordings issued in this forty year period might actually be obtained. If it is not possible for me to obtain all of them, at least what I have obtained will serve as 'best evidence' for the body of every recording issued and those which I have missed. Moreover, it is better to document one era and one format - the LP era - as definitively as possible than to try to cope with the never-ending issues and reissues of all the various tape formats and CD's. That can be a lifetime project for someone else as my LP project has been for me.

The purpose of 'having everything' is for comparisons in listening, packaging, documentation and to understand varieties of issuance in different countries. All of these variables are only examinable when the records are physically available. A relative comparison can be made from discographies which have been prepared from dealers' lists, record company catalogues etc., but the true documentation can only be made when the records are physically available for inspection.

The Durbeck Archive is the foremost source for this type of comparative documentation, and will now make all this information available to researchers, discographers, scholars, singers, conductors, all performers and music lovers in general, in the form of my Datalogue® database.  As such, it will be the largest, most comprehensive database of its kind in the history of recorded sound, and unique, since the primary data for each initial entry is taken directly from the recording - which includes the actual LPs themselves, the packaging, the libretto and the liner notes. Conversely, on many 'pirated' or 'private label' recordings, a minimum of information is listed, not only because these issues lacked resources, but were sometimes intentionally sketchy (or even purposefully misleading) to obfuscate performance dates and performers as a means of protection for the 'piraters.' Therefore, to make these initial entries as complete as possible, many details of the specific recording information must be supplied from other sources. Most Russian recordings very seldom offer more than role, singer, conductor, orchestra or chorus information; they don't even provide the first name of performers, simply 'J. Doevitch.' I have had to find what the 'J' actually stands for - possible in some instances, not possible in others.

The research for additional entry information for all of these recordings is about 99% complete. Some of the research digs deeply to original sources, in that I have written many letters to performers, composers etc., had many interviews with them - so these, I consider to be definitive. I have consulted hundreds of books, journals, other recordings, other discographies, the Internet and various other printed sources but, certainly, there are many items of information which I just have not found. To provide 100% of the missing information is not the ultimate scope of this book.

Filler Documentation:  Another major aspect of this Archive discography is that since I own all of the operas I am cataloging, they are available to me for complete inspection as they are being entered.  Therefore, I am able to determine content not directly related to the complete opera recording.  For example, a common practice with commercial labels, as with "private" labels, is that often when a complete opera recording does not completely fill the allotted side assignment of single or multiple LPs, that unused portion of the LP is often filled with other recordings - sometimes related to the major work and sometimes not.  For purposes of expediency, I call these "bonus" recordings "filler."   To the best of my knowledge, these "filler" recordings have never been documented - until now.   Having the first hand opportunity to directly inspect each recording catalogued, I have fully documented the "filler" on all complete opera recordings in The Durbeck Archive.  Often many of these "filler" recordings are truly unique and singularly one-of-a-kind - only to be found in these "filler" supplements.

Since 'the book' will actually be an Internet database,  this technology will allow the extraordinary ability to include many photographs of unique record labels and record jackets. As these labels and jackets are selected, they will be either scanned or digitally photographed and held in a special photo-file then hyperlinked to the appropriate entries. This will give many readers the opportunity to see labels and jackets which might not be available to them through standard sources.

Finally, the question has been raised as to why I do not list operas which I do not own. Again, to try to include every traceable complete opera recording is beyond the scope of this book. This book is not meant to be a history of recorded opera, it is meant only to be a catalogue raisonné of The Durbeck Archive and, as such, will be an invaluable research source for some other discographer who would like to write the history of opera recordings. I am cataloging my Archive, someone else can write the history books.

Edward F. Durbeck III

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