NORBECK, PETERS & FORD, in business since 1972, has been selecting and selling 78s, LPs, and finally CDs of historical interest, precisely because we believe in the quality and stylistic authenticity of historically important performances which are rarely equaled, hardly surpassed. We sorely lament the state of the contemporary classical music business that must churn out performance after performance (often repeating over-exposed popular repertoire), glutting the market with inferior performances simply to offer something 'new' in the concert halls and the catalogues. To counter this unfortunate trend, we seek out the more obscure performances (frequently 'live') of the past, and support the excellent transfer to CD format of historical material previously available only on 78s, LPs or private tapes, sometimes previously unavailable in any format. Frequently this means we must import privately-produced, limited edition CDs, often at a greater cost than one would have to pay in a chain record store. We fervently believe in our product and service, and in our mission to offer our alternative to mediocrity. We sincerely thank you, our loyal collector-friends, for supporting our endeavor and committed belief.
“I came across the Volpe Met Gala of 2006 which I did not remember at all, and so watched it. Interestingly…it was very noticeable how much just in a dozen years that singing has gone downhill with respect to style, personality, the musicality that give such individuality. It was obvious with some things, Juan Diego Flórez leading off the program, and knocking off an elaborate Rossini aria, with florid ability at an astonishing level, but it is all at the same volume and there is not any delicate shading and rubato, the things that made de Lucia so unforgettable. René Pape had real character in his DON CARLO aria, but he was not a youngster even then by any stretch of imagination, and that made the contrast with the youngsters that much more evident. Mattila, while quite beautiful, was sort of a soprano Flórez. I begin to see again why I am so devoted to my historic records. Yes, as an historian I love the history around the performances and singers, but I really was strongly aware that I am just bored to death with most of that which passes for singing today. Susan Graham sang ‘Parto Parto’, not too badly for a modern singer, until we got to the big trill, which just was not there, just a sort of quick gargle and then right off the note. But by George it sure was there when Schumann-Heink sang it!”
- Dr. Helen Hatton, University of Toronto, 2017
“There is much to be said about the issue of playing wrong notes. In the present age of the dictatorship of the CD we have simply become accustomed to hearing squeaky-clean, accurate playing; and young musicians growing up listening to such 'perfection' tend to tailor their playing to sound like the CDs they admire. I am sure that the tentative, tight performances I hear so often in masterclasses has something to do with this. A student will play with little imagination, no flair, no structure, no phrasing, no real tonal control, bad pedalling but with an air of confidence … until just one note is dropped or splattered, and then there is a wince of pain or embarrassment. Quite often the mishap is the most interesting moment in the performance because the student might have been trying for something which involved some element of risk. I am convinced that getting students to lose their fear of inaccuracy is one of the most important things a teacher can encourage….[True musicianship] is someone stumbling up the highest mountain with grazed, bloodied knees, whereas so much contemporary playing seems more like someone riding up an escalator.”
- Stephen Hough, THE TELEGRAPH, 8 Aug., 2011
“It used to be that an experienced ear, listening blind to a recording or a radio broadcast, could quickly tell one ensemble from another: Szell’s Cleveland Orchestra by its transparency, precision and sheer virtuosity; the Philadelphia Orchestra by its warmth, with a lush, enveloping string sound cultivated by Leopold Stokowski and Eugene Ormandy and mostly maintained by Riccardo Muti; the Chicago Symphony (Mr. Muti’s new orchestra) by its power, with a machine-tooled brass core energized by Fritz Reiner and almost turned into caricature by Georg Solti; the Boston Symphony by a slightly febrile, penetrating quality suited to the French music it performed under Charles Münch and Pierre Monteux; Leonard Bernstein’s New York Philharmonic by its attitude, with a rough and ready edge.
Alas, this loss has been international, with Russian brass players having lost their nasal swagger and German oboists no longer sounding like ducks. It is inevitable at a time when star conductors jet around the globe, often juggling multiple music directorships and imposing internationalist standards, and when players are more mobile geographically and upwardly. Though no one would like to admit it, interchangeability — again, at the highest of levels — is in danger of becoming the norm.”
- James R. Oesterich, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 14 June, 2013
“By the 1970s…the classical vocal field was clearly in a state of flux. Changes in singing style had become more noticeable, problems had arisen in casting even standard operas because of the lack of suitable voices, the possibility of electronically enhanced sound in opera houses was rumored, and the growing interest in music styles was already tending to flood the music schools, concert halls, and opera stages with putative counter-tenors and white-voiced, vibratoless sopranos. Nearly all the national vocal schools had vanished, leading to a plethora of mostly homogenized, generic voices. Their owners, while often technically proficient, tended to be anonymous sounding….audiences were – and still are – effectively deprived of hearing many of the most charismatic and technically accomplished musicians of the past hundred years…[among them] the most important singers of the century who had left us recorded evidence of vanished styles and national characteristics.”
- Vivian A. Liff, AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE, July/Aug., 2010
"...in the new millennium, technology has produced 'a kind of synthetic perfection...in which hundreds of digital edits create an aural product that sometimes bears little relation to music presented in the concert hall. What's often lost is the sweep and spontaneity of the original performance, not to mention the warmth that allows music to touch our souls'."
- CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 8 March, 2004
Norbeck, Peters & Ford
59 Congress Street
St. Albans, VT 05478
Phone: (800) 654-5302 or (802) 524-7673 (from 10-5pm Eastern time)
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