Review: Les Contre-Sujets

Newly funded by the EU to promote young professional Early Music ensembles, the Paris-based period instrument sextet, Les Contre-Sujets, became one of six groups selected to carry the ‘EEemerging’ designation.

The project’s inaugural year brought them to the National Centre for Early Music in York, their stated aim being to ‘bring an original approach to early music performances, and always interacting with the audience’.

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For their first appearance, they played the opening movement of a Baroque work by four nameless composers, then asking, on a show of hands, which one the audience enjoyed most, they repeated the same exercise with a slow movement and a brisk and lively finale. Armed with the audience choice they played the preferred three movements as one complete work, the eventual ‘concerto’ – which sounded quite attractive – containing music by three different composers. If their aim was to prove Baroque concertos sound much the same, they were successful, but their preparation was woeful as we waited for them to find the correct piece of music.

They concluded by performing one short work in its entirety, but this obviously talented group had squandered a golden opportunity to communicate to a large well-informed audience that they have the musicality and technical expertise to match their European Union support.

David Denton