French harpist Hélène Breschand (born 1966) dips her toes in both the contemporary repertoire and free improvisation. Active since the late '80s, she works mainly on the Parisian scene. Raised in a family of painters keen on avant-garde art, she had a chance to come in contact with contemporary music at a young age. After a few years spent playing the recorder, she made her debut on the harp at age 13 and started to frequent the conservatory. In 1984 she studied with Pierre Janet at the Académie de Harpe (Paris). After four years of study with Brigitte Sylvestre she earned a gold medal and a prize of excellence from the conservatory. By the early 1990s she was immersed in a career in new music, working with composers Luciano Berio and Emmanuel Nunes (among others), playing in the new music ensemble Laborintus and the orchestra Transes Européennes. Her meeting with clarinetist Sylvain Kassap opened her to the art of free improvisation, a territory she felt ready to explore since her main interests as an interpreter of contemporary works mostly resided in loose compositional frames. Her debut solo album as an interpreter, Harpiste, came out on the In Situ label in 1999. Two years later For 4 Ears released L'Intense, a free improv session with Michel Doneda and Gérard Zbinder. She also performs in small groupings with Sophie Agnel, Jean-Marc Montera, Didier Petit, Henri Tournier, and Gérard Bucquet.
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