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Maria Elena Barrientos was born in Mérida, in the Mexican state of Yucatán. She studied piano and harp at the Mexico Conservatorio Nacional de Música, taking a course of musical analysis with Rodolfo Halffter. She was principal harpist and pianist of the Orquesta Sinfónica de la Universidad de México and the Orquesta de la Ópera. In 1964 she received various prizes in Mexico and in 1967 a scholarship from the French government that brought study of the harp and piano in Paris, continued with Yvonne Loriod. In July and August 1969 she accompanied the violinist Henryk Szeryng in his violin master-classes in Mexico and in 1970 was awarded first prize in the Olivier Messiaen International Contemporary Music Competition in Royan. In 1971 she appeared as a soloist in the Shiraz International Festival at Persepolis in Iran. Since then she has lived in Spain, with a career as a soloist and in chamber music, active with the Grupo Koan under the direction of José Ramón Encinar and in teaching. She served on the jury of the New Messiaen Competition, under the chairmanship of Messiaen’s widow, Yvonne Loriod.

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