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Repertoire MASQUES

Ensemble Masques
Programmes for


In the 18th century, the Grand Tour was the fashionable means by which high born Europeans - and the British in particular - sought to broaden their horizons, gathering ideas and points of view from all across the continent. Travel represented the completion of a truly aristocratic education. Inspired by this tradition, Ensemble Masques offers a programme 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 performed for the first time.  This programme not only places this repertoire in their original creative context, but also sheds new light on the era and regions for which they were composed. Narrated excerpts from original letters of young travellers provide vivid eye witness accounts of the places, people and overall character of 18th century Europe.

AVAILABLE VERSIONS in English, French, Flemish and German.
1h45 with intermission
8 musicians
1 narrator


The overture-suites by Telemann explore various themes: traditional music, musical oddities, chivalrous depictions… combining both the serious and the comic. The French style, so familiar to Telemann, constitutes the framework and inspiration of these works. Though usually played in an orchestral formation, these suites were also performed in Telemann’s time as chamber music with one musician per part. Thus, at the Dresden court, many musicians recreated their own suites playing directly from the score, with stringed instruments, the version employed by the six members of Ensemble Masques.

1h45 with intermission
6 musicians

 "Another success : with 5 strings and a harpsichord, the Ensemble Masques and Olivier Fortin give the illusion of a radiant orchestra... Playful dances, guaranteed effects." Jean-Luc Macia, Diapason, November 2016.


Chamber music concerts were all the vogue in Paris at the beginning of the 18th century. The works of Couperin "Le Grand" illustrate it perfectly: music for harpsichord and viola da gamba, “Concert Royaux” and other chamber music for which the instrumentation is sometimes left to the discretion of the performers. On the occasion of the 250th anniversary of Couperin’s birth in 2018, Masques is offering a programme illustrating the taste and refinement of this major French composer.

6 musicians
Available optional version with vocal soloist


The world’s first known historic coffee house, Kiva Han, was reputedly opened in Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1555. Less than 100 years later in Paris, the Cafe Le Procope, still in business, was acknowledged as the first true coffee house and the oldest restaurant in Paris, located right in the heart of the celebrated Quartier Latin. The cafe faced the Théâtre Français, where it drew a clientele of artists and actors and became known as the “theatrical” coffee house, though only for gentlemen. In 1723, the year Bach moved to Leipzig, the Zimmermannsche Kaffeehaus was largest and best-appointed Kaffeehaus of Leipzig as well as an assembly centre for the middle class and gentlemen. In England, coffee became available no later than the 16th century, largely through the efforts of the British East India Company and the Dutch East India Company. The first coffeehouse in England was opened in St. Michael’s Alley in Cornhill, London. The Coffee cantatas by Bach and Bernier provide the vehicle for Ensemble Masques, accompanied by a narrator, to give an overview of the first European coffee houses, their clientele, and the ideas and discussions they conveyed, from the first establishment in Istanbul to the arrival of this place of social gathering in the Europe of the 17th and 18th centuries.

2 singers
6 musicians
1 narrator