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Thread: Finally the wait is over! New Agustarello Affre CD released 31/3/15!

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    Senior Member Figleaf's Avatar
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    Default Finally the wait is over! New Agustarello Affre CD released 31/3/15!



    The French label Malibran are at last bringing out a CD of the important French heroic tenor Agustarello Affre, one of the biggest stars of the 1890s and early 1900s and a prolific recording artist whose discs are among the best examples of tenor singing. Unaccountably, hardly any of his output has made it on to CD: he is represented only by a complete Carmen recording from 1911 available on both Malibran and Marston, and a complete Romeo et Juliette recorded the following year, remastered by Ward Marston for VAI and now unavailable (though Malibran has a disc of highlights) and by this CD issued by the German label HAFG:



    Regrettably, the HAFG CD is transferred badly and the two complete recordings, while excellent performances, find him in vocal decline: the timing was very unfortunate, since he was still going strong as late as 1910 and made many of his best recordings that year. Some of them can be heard on this excellent website, the initiative of the great soprano Renee Doria, who is also the brains behind the Malibran label:

    http://www.artlyriquefr.fr/personnag...ustarello.html

    (Scroll down to the bottom of the page to listen to or download the mp3s.)

    Phonobase.org also has a number of Affre recordings, albeit in predominantly poor sound, but including rarely-heard song recordings and discs and cylinders made for smaller companies, which must be incredibly rare on the original formats:

    http://www.phonobase.org/advanced_se...gue=fr&ligne=0

    Excitingly, the new CD is billed as Volume 1: fingers crossed that it will sell well (or as well as CDs of this kind can be expected to sell) and that Volume 2 will soon follow. One disappointment is that all the tracks on the CD are Pathé recordings: as is well known, this company’s discs and cylinders are all crudely dubbed from master cylinders, and thus sound worse than other companies’ recordings of the same period. Affre himself was dissatisfied both with the sound of his voice as recorded (one suspects by Pathé in particular) and with the fees he was paid, and together with nine other artists broke away and founded the short-lived APGA label, which was not a commercial success and was eventually swallowed up by Pathé itself.



    So how bad are Affre’s Pathés, from a sound quality perspective? Certainly not so bad as to be for completists only, yet it is regrettable that this most beautiful of voices should be so ill-recorded. You can judge for yourself how acceptable the sound is from the handful on the Artlyrique website: they do have an objectionably tinny quality, but are not too faint sounding, and if they do not quite do the quality of his voice justice, they at least preserve his distinctive phrasing, grandiloquent yet chaste. The performances are so impressive that one almost forgets to notice the sound: listen to his ‘In fernem Land’ or ‘Rachel, quand du seigneur’ on Artlyrique (both are on the Malibran CD) and ask whether they have ever been bettered. Had I been choosing the material for this reissue, I would have prioritized the very vivid, forwardly-recorded discs made by the Gramophone & Typewriter Co and by Zonophone, as well as the piano-accompanied Odeons: these show as well as any ancient recording can the miraculous beauty of the voice, pure yet surprisingly mellow in the middle and penetrating at the top. The Record Collector’s CD ‘The Great French Heroic Tenors: Voices of Gallic Splendour’ has three excellent Affre sides which are IMO the best modern transfers of his voice. Of those, ‘O toi, mon seul espoir’ (Ah si, ben mio) has found its way onto Youtube, and the CD itself was, last time I looked, available directly from therecordcollector.org at the bargain price of £6.00. Apart from the ‘Dieu, que ma voix tremblante’ which was one of the highlights of The Record of Singing volume 1, these three tracks were all I had heard of Affre, until private collectors began to upload his records to Youtube- and my obsession with him was born.

    Back to Malibran: they have chosen an impressive selection of performances (though I would have left the Pathés for Volume 2 or 3). I was especially pleased to see the excitingly sung Act 3 duet from Aida, which I have heard on an mp3 and would welcome hearing in CD quality sound. (Malibran’s own transfers tend to be uneven in quality, but are sometimes good.) The rest of the tracks are among his best performances and indeed among the very best recorded performances by any singer. Possible exceptions might be the Carmen aria and the ‘La donna e mobile’: if other Affre recordings of these pieces are anything to go by, they are not the best examples with which to win over those detractors who insist that his style is ‘pedestrian’. (Or ‘square’, ‘provincial’, ‘plodding’- whichever snide dismissal is currently in vogue among verismo-loving Anglophone philistine critics.) One wonders why Malibran didn’t represent his Duke of Mantua with the smoothly-sung ‘Bella figlia dell’amore’ or even the ‘Questa o quella’ on the Artlyrique site, which, while somewhat stentorian and angry-sounding, is a magnificent vocal tour de force. Of those recordings I haven’t heard any Affre versions of, I’m most looking forward to the duet from L’Africaine with Mathilde Comès: their recording of the love duet from Le Cid, also included here, is beautifully tender and moving.

    http://www.malibran.com/acatalog/Affre.html#aMR775

    http://www.vocal-classics.com/produc...llo-affre.html

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    Senior Member Figleaf's Avatar
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    Default Two new releases!

    HAFG have released two 3CD sets devoted to Affre's recordings! No fewer than six new CDs of a great artist hitherto almost completely overlooked by the reissue companies!





    I didn't manage to order these just now- perhaps the sheer volume of demand crashed the server -but I've fired off an email saying that I've been trying to place an order, and hopefully this will result in success. I hope, too, that the transfers will be better than HAFG's somewhat over filtered and muffled Affre CD issued previously (the one with the black and blue cover mentioned in my original post). Of course, we devotees of such little-reissued singers are more than happy with anything at all. I have tried to persuade a couple of small labels known for the quality of their transfers to devote a CD to this magnificent tenor (to be partly sponsored by me if necessary) and their feelings were that there probably wasn't sufficient interest among collectors for such a project to be worthwhile. YouTube tells another story, however: while not exactly a YouTube hit to rival cats on skateboards and all that stuff, I see that many Affre videos more than a few months old have notched up several hundred views- which indicates a certain level of casual interest at least, if not necessarily willingness to shell out for a CD. Moreover, however much we all like the convenience and of having our favourite 78rpm era singers on CD, it's noticeable that CD companies are no longer the gatekeepers of our recorded vocal heritage: there have been quite a few new youtube uploads in the last month or so, with the indefatigable tittaruffo2 posting a DIY transfer of the Huguenots septet in better sound than I've ever heard it, and the new to me David C posting several interesting Pathés. Ideally one would have these serendipitous discoveries alongside the more permanent medium of a CD, especially as no reissue company is likely to want to reissue the complete Affre, many of whose recordings are scarce and in suboptimal sound, especially the cylinders. This new release (some of which is new to me) along with the efforts of YouTube enthusiasts, will hopefully help to restore our tenor to his rightful place in the pantheon of great singers of the past.

    Some of the most recent YouTube videos-

    The virile Raoul of one's dreams:

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=Yl0hoUQqB3k

    A beautiful, rather restrained, Giunto sul passo estremo:

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=tPyTcqM6NZg

    An early Pathé Inspirez-moi finds our hero in magnificent voice:

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=qPx-8TTWaFI

    La donna e mobile- he was a famous Duke of Mantua, though it's hard to believe that this incarnation of dignity and heroism was temperamentally suited to play such a character:

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=BsmxCsbid_k


    Affre as Arnold:

    Last edited by Figleaf; Feb-02-2016 at 18:18.

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    Senior Member Figleaf's Avatar
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    Default

    I've ordered it now. I don't know whether the technical gremlins were mine, HAFGs or what, but their service is certainly prompt- yesterday I got this email from the Hamburger Archiv für Gesangkunst:


    Your CD order: Affre Boxes
    Joachim Leufgen High priority 02/02/2016
    To: Figleaf
    Info@vocal-classics.com
    Hello Mrs. Figleaf,

    your order did arrive. No problem on my side. The two CD-Boxes will be mailed to you tomorrow.

    thanks and best regards

    Joachim Leufgen

    (HAFG have an unusual ordering system whereby you don't pay in advance, but receive an invoice with your CDs.)
    I can't wait till I have these beauties in my CD player!

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