“Larsen’s innovative artistry has universal appeal and promises to set the course for the next wave of contemporary music,” states Omega Medina, twelve year Senior Manager – Classical for the GRAMMY® Awards.
Born and raised in San Francisco, California, Larsen began piano studies at the age of six. He composed in his teens, becoming the youngest composition student of Juilliard’s summer home in Aspen, Colorado.
He graduated from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, pursuing a dual career as composer and pianist. Larsen studied under Conservatory president Milton Salkind and Mack McCray (piano), the legendary John Adams (composition), subsequently working with Peter Feuchtwanger and Ruth Nye in London, as well as Vlado Perlemuter (Maurice Ravel’s assistant) in Paris.
Larsen became renowned in Europe for his spirited performances of the High Romantics. In particular, his interpretations of Liszt, Grieg, Rachmaninoff and Saint-Saens made significant contributions to the Romantic Revival and won him acclaim from both audiences and critics alike.
London critic Philip Somerich describes Larsen’s playing as “displays of dazzling, but never uncontrolled dexterity of huge hands with scope, power and drama, but connected to a mind which was dictating clarity of phrase and incisive overall vision. He demonstrates impressive brilliance and musicianship from melting melody to storming climax while always retaining clarity of expression and complete control of the keyboard.”
Renowned for several world premieres and recordings of previously unknown works of Liszt and Saint-Saens, Larsen became the first pianist to make a CD recording of Saint-Saens solo piano music. Simultaneously, he became a favorite at London appearances such as English Heritage, performing for outdoor audiences up to 17,000. Larsen also became a Steinway & Sons Artist.
Carter Larsen also began to establish himself as a serious composer premiering four original compositions alongside the classics, which were first broadcast on Classic FM’s prestigious “Platform Live” from the UK in 1994. His passion for composing has created numerous works with performances on PBS, BBC, FM stations and cable worldwide. (see Repertoire)
A celebrated performer and recording artist of his original compositions as well as the classical repertoire, Larsen received prime coverage on radio and television throughout Europe and the USA. He conducted and performed as soloist with major concerts including the Royal Philharmonic and the London Symphony Orchestras. Larsen’s featured presentation in London performing Chopin’s music was broadcast on BBC television’s prestigious “Omnibus” program.
He was recognized as a brilliant New Romantic and reviews were forthcoming! The Independent exalted “his torrents of notes, lush harmonies and gorgeous melodies.” The Guardian praised his “delicacy, taste and smooth continuity of line broken only for dramatic effect. Larsen’s romantic sensibilities were evident throughout.” The Daily Telegraph was particularly impressed with his “fluency and panache”. While Christopher Grier of the Evening Standard lauded his “formidable technique with which to back his fancies”.
Larsen has seamlessly bridged the worlds of performing and composing — classical and film. London critic Christopher Wood puts it best — “Here is a composer with European sensibilities and yet a natural affinity with the world of Hollywood.”The composer extended his talents to creating scores for films and series writing music for the major Hollywood studios, including Paramount, Fox, PBS, BBC and Discovery. Larsen was asked to compose music for prestigious films, such as Paramount’s “Star Trek” to “Nosferatu” along with “Masterpiece Theatre” and “The Mark of Zorro”. The composer’s recent films, “The Innocents Mission” and “Love Bytes”, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and his feature “Big Shots” premiered at Cannes.
Credits include: Something To Believe In, The Innocents Mission, Nosferatu, Scarecrow, Canons and Flowers, The Mark of Zorro, Impressions, Pierced Heart, The Healing Chamber, Pleasing Mona, Bridges and Beyond, Awakening Elegie, Big Shots and Appassionato which airs regularly on worldwide television including PBS in the Classic Arts Showcase.
The composer further established himself as a versatile recording artist with CDs of Saint-Saens, Mendelssohn, Granados, Liszt, Rachmaninoff, Chopin and Beethoven among others, as well as recordings of his own original music. His “Romantic Rarities”was citied by BBC Radio as “a sample of Carter Larsen’s versatility and complete mastery in every way.”
Larsen’s work diversified in composing the score for the 2001 theatrical production of “Dracula” as well as appearances in his own music videos “Awakening Elegie” and Appassionato, which airs regularly on worldwide television and PBS on the Classic Arts Showcase.
Carter Larsen Music Publishing Inc. was founded in 1995, a music licensing company holding rights to Larsen’s original music as well as a library of source music, in association with mastering and post-production houses.
In 1999, Larsen founded Montage Media, a record company recording and distributing his original music as well as the classics and film soundtracks. Edition Isolde was also founded in 1999, producing the printed publication of Larsen’s music; with printing by Increase Music in Los Angeles.
His 1998 tour included five London concerts in which the composer conducted and performed his original compositions alongside the classics. In May 1999, Larsen’s European tour culminated in the first recording of Fantasia Suite in a live performance at St. Martins-in-the-Fields (see below).
On September 30, 2006, Larsen was further celebrated with another launch of an international series at Pepperdine University, this time entirely featuring his magnum opus, Fantasia Suite. Six performers included one masters and two doctoral candidates from the University of Southern California and featured pianist Aaron McClaskey. The sold out evening, introduced by Catherine Goldwyn, was recorded live. The concerts that followed featured an array of international artists performing the music of Carter Larsen.
Larsen rose as a significant cultural ambassador in May 2008, performing the first step in a trail blazing effort: introducing a new movement in classical music to China’s 100 million pianists. He performed at the Asian premiers of his new magnum opus, Fantasia Suite first in Beijing, then in Shanghai, both sponsored by Hines.
In 2009 popular demand for Fantasia Suite created the Carter Larsen Competition. This is the first international Hollywood piano competition offering pianists of all ages and nationalities the opportunity to perform in television and film. In 2011 six semi-final winners will be invited to perform a filmed concert at Paramount Studios before an audience of Hollywood producers and directors. The winner performs a music video recorded in London with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. President of the jury is twelve-year Senior Manager, Classical GRAMMYS®, Omega Medina.
In 2010 Larsen was invited to perform Fantasia Suite during the Shanghai Expo 2010, at the Shanghai Grand Theater June 21, the closing night of the International Film Festival and also the Shanghai Music Festival. This Grand Theater concert marks the Asian launch of the competition.Scott Epstein sums it up “Carter Larsen composes music for our age that is personal, deeply felt, and sophisticated. Resisting conventional labels, his music pursues its own path with intense inspiration. Larsen is a composer for our times.”