ENSEMBLE MASQUES PREPARE FOR FESTIVAL DE SAINTES Baroque sixtet from France focuses on Telemann the coming months
Ensemble Masques, © David Samyn 

The baroque Ensemble Masques from France have a number of interesting months ahead. The ensemble was formed 15 years ago and was initially based in Canada. However, for the last six years, they have made Paris their home base and are holding concerts in France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Poland, amongst others.' These days in the honour of the 250th anniversary of the death of the German baroque composer Georg Philipp Telemann in 2017, they are preparing a new recording for the Alpha label. In addition, they are looking forward to play this new programme in the prestigious Festival de Saintes, on 15 July 2016, which will be the Ensemble's first appearance in Saintes in their 15-year existence. The Festival de Saintes was launched in 1972. The original programme was based on a repertoire of baroque music. It was then extended to include renaissance and contemporary music. The Festival de Saintes will be held from July 8 to 16 at the Abbey of Sainte-Marie-des-Dames, which was the first Benedictine abbey for women in Saintes,  in Charente-Maritime, located on the Charentes river between La Rochelle and Bordeaux in France. Olivier Fortin, the founder of Ensemble Masques, explains: "Performing in the Festival of Saintes is very special to us, especially because it will be our first appearance there. It's a world-renowned festival and we are of course, delighted to be part of their 2016 edition."               


Georg Philipp Telemann (1681- 1767) 

"A serious composer with a touch a humour."

In the upcoming months, Ensemble Masques will focus their attention on Telemann , a German baroque composer, conductor and organist, often regarded the most productive composer of all time. Ensemble Masques, which specializes in baroque and renaissance music have scheduled a number of Telemann concerts. Olivier Fortin explains, "We like to play Telemann. Since 2017 marks the 250th anniversary of his death in 1767, we take this opportunity to explore works that we have never played before. Telemann was a very serious composer, with a touch of humour. Our new recording for Alpha will focus on this aspect of the composer. "' 


A virtually self-taught musician 
Georg Philipp Telemann became a composer against his family's wishes. After studying in Magdeburg, Zellerfeld and Hildesheim, he went to the University of Leipzig to study law, but eventually settled on a career in music. He held important postions in Leipzig, Sorau, Eisenach and Frankfurt, before settling in Hamburg  in 1721, where he became musical director of the city's five main churches. At the age of 80, Telemann composed an ouverture-suite called 'Don Quichotte', based on the Cervantes novel  ('Don Quixote'').   


Musical celebrations inspired by the violence of war  
Ensemble Masques is formed by 6 internationally renowned musicians, consisting in Sophie Gent and Tuomo Suni (violin), Kathleen Kajioka (viola and violin), Mélisande Corriveau (violoncello & viola da gamba), Benoît VandenBemden (double bass and violin) and founder Olivier Fortin (harpsichord). The group takes its name from the costumed spectacles from the Elizabethan period. Music was a key part of such celebrations. Last year, Masques played on tour a programme called battaglias, as the war and peace theme has been a source of inspiration for some composers of the baroque era. For instance, the battle featured in the Telemann 'Don Quixote' suite is a fight against windmills, imagined as giants by the hero. Telemann uses the battaglia conventions that were popular with composers of the 17th and 18th centuries; the suggestions of turmoil and action thanks to quikc runs, quickly repeated chords with all the instruments, backed by simple harmonisation. It's no coincidence that concertare (fighting or competing) is a basic priciple in baroque music. The brilliant Ensemble Masques arm themselves against the gruesome wars, when Telemann's Don Quixote suite was still just a shadow of the wars of last century - at least in terms of music (source: www.debijloke.be).  


Nuits de Septembre  © Maïlis Snoeck Photography 


'Festival Oude Muziek', Utrecht, the Netherlands
On the 27th of August, Ensemble Masques will be performing at the world-famous 'Festival Oude Muziek' in Utrecht (the Utrecht Early Music Festival) for the third year in a row. Olivier Fortin is delighted about their third performance at the wonderful Utrecht Festival. He enthuses, "This year we will be performing a very famous Adagio, attributed to the Italian composer Tomaso Albinoni. The piece was not actually written by Albinoni, but was rather composed in the 1950s by a German musicologist. The ironic thing about it is that the public still believe  that this is an Adagio by Albinoni, but that's not the case. But we will play this one 'for fun', before performing some real Albinoni music." 


Ensemble Masques wil also be performing at the Terpsichore Festival in Paris in September, with a new programme called 'The Grand Tour'. In the 18th century The Grand Tour was the fashionable means by which hiugh-born Europeans  - and the Britsh in particular - sought to broaden their horizon, gathering ideas and points of view from across the continent. It was the completion of a truly aristocratic education. Inspired by this tradition, Ensemble Masques offers a porgramme that transports the listener through a tale of travels, with stops in the great cities of France, Italy and Germany, where the works of Rameau, Couperin, Vivaldi, Bach and Telemann were played. In this programme these works are not only performed in their original creative context, but also sheds new light on the era and regions in which they were written. Narrated excerpts from the letters of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, James Boswell and Martin Lister, provide vivid eye-witness accounts of the places, people and overall charactersof the 18th century in Europe.                    


Ensemble Masques are internationally acclaimed for their expressiveness, the eloquence of their musical interpretations, and the dynamic musical involvement of each member. For their CD released on the Alpha Label (Romanus Weichlein, Opus 1, 1695), the ensemble recently obtained three distinctions from important magazines: Diapason d'Or, Choc from Classica and FFFF from Telerama. More information about the programmes and venues can be obtained from the Ensemble Masques website: www.ensemblemasques.org.                  


For further information contact Olivier Fortin, Artistic director.
Email: olivierfortin@ensemblemasques.org and 




< Back: What's happening on the cultural front?