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Sylvan Blassel

Sylvain Blassel is a harpist and conductor. Very early in his career, his position as Pierre Boulez’s assistant with the Ensemble InterContemporain led to many formative experiences: working for example with György Kurtag, György Ligeti, Brian Ferneyhough, and Helmut Lachenmann. As an instrumentalist, Sylvain Blassel’s regular orchestral appearances also afforded him many defining musical moments – for example with Claudio Abbado, Sir Simon Rattle, Gustavo Dudamel, Valery Gergiev, Alan Gilbert, etc.

Keen to expand the repertoire available to him as a harpist, Sylvain Blassel has come to specialise in the virtuoso adaptation of music hitherto undreamt-of on the harp. He performs not simply transcriptions of digestible solos, but giants of the piano and orchestra repertoire. These span periods from Guillaume de Machaut to the present day, and include deep explorations of Bach, Beethoven, Haydn and Liszt. These include works that tax the best of pianists (Liszt’s Campanella, Hungarian Rhapsodies…), and above all masterpieces – like the Goldberg Variations, and Beethoven’s last sonatas.

Sylvain Blassel’s recording of The Goldberg Variations (Lontano/Warner) attracted widespread critical acclaim – “an exquisite reading” (Gramophone); “played with a great feeling for overall architecture and interior expressiveness that recalls Hewitt and Tureck in equal measure.” This disc was recorded on a 1904 Erard harp, without changing a note of the original score.

Fascinated by the organological development of his instrument, he also often plays with period orchestras. He has an extensive personal collection of instruments, and often presents multiple harps in the course of his recitals.

Sylvain Blassel is Professor of Harp at the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague, and at his alma mater, the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique de Lyon. He is regularly invited to give masterclasses throughout the world: in New York, Tokyo, Toronto, Hong Kong, Hamburg, Berlin, Prague, Chicago, Seoul, Beijing, and Shanghai. He was a member of the juries for the 20th International Harp Contest in Israel, and the 11th USA International Harp Competition.

Sylvain Blassel’s editions include the complete compositions for lute by JS Bach, several works by Liszt and Wagner, cadenzas for Handel, Mozart and Boieldieu Harp Concerto, Francisco Tárrega’s Recuerdos De La Alhambra, and Debussy’s Première Rhapsodie for clarinet, and Saint-Saëns’s Danse Macabre.