Carter Larsen

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Carter Larsen

Carter Lawrence Larsen is an American classical pianist and composer. Most widely known for his European performances in the 1980s. He is sought after in Hollywood for film scoring and now primarily focuses on piano composition.

Early life and education[edit]

Larsen was born in San Francisco, California, and began piano studies at the age of six. Composing music in his teens, Larsen graduated from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, pursuing a dual career as composer and pianist. He studied composition under John Adams and piano under Milton Salkind (Conservatory president) and Mack McCray. Post Conservatory, he worked with Peter Feuchtwanger and Ruth Nye in London, and Vlado Perlemuter (Maurice Ravel's assistant) in Paris.

Musical style and compositions[edit]

Larsen is known for creating a new style of 21st-century romanticism which combines 19th-century romanticism with influences of the 20th century, such as jazz, minimalism and world music. His group of compositions, Fantasia Suite, is seen as a Neo-Romantic reaction to the violence and dissonance of the last century, emphasizing beauty and fantasy with idealism at its foundation.[1]

He composed more than 150 substantial solo piano works in Fantasia Suite establishes Larsen as one of today's most prolific solo piano composers. These compositions represent a continuous cycle of cinematic, yet classically written music in a bold, new contemporary idiom. Andrea Van de Kamp, Chairman Emeritus of the Music Center in Los Angeles, declares, “Fantasia Suite is the music of the future. Larsen is creating a breakthrough with his twenty-first century Neo-Romantic approach. He has embraced the summation of our classical culture in music, while exploding into another dimension of creativity.” Scott Epstein insists, “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. It reaches us and reflects us. Larsen is a composer for out times.”

In Larsen's compositions, the melody, harmony, rhythm and instrumental virtuosity attains a level of complexity that is richly satisfying. Larsen's approach to the piano, though modern and individual, has its antecedents in the pianism of the great classical and romantic composers. The music is sometimes vocal, sometimes orchestral and sometimes peculiarly pianistic in figuration. The forms are clear and accessible and the music is always at the service of the emotional content, whether serious or capricious, bitter or sweet, worldly or spiritual.

Performances and appearances[edit]

Starting in 1980, Larsen became renowned in Europe for his piano performances of the High Romantics. In particular, his interpretations of Liszt, Grieg, Rachmaninoff and Saint-Saëns made significant contributions to the Romantic Revival and won acclaim from both audiences and critics.[2][3][4]

Carter Larsen conducted and performed as soloist with major concerts including the Royal Philharmonic[5] and the London Symphony Orchestras.[6] His featured presentation in London performing Chopin's music, was broadcast on BBC television's prestigious "Omnibus " program in 1986.[7]

Renowned for several world premieres and recordings of previously unknown works of Liszt and Saint-Saëns, Larsen became the first pianist to make a complete cd recording of Saint-Saëns' solo piano music in 1989.

Carter Larsen established himself as a serious composer premiering four original compositions alongside the classics, which were first broadcast on the UK's Classic FM "Platform Live" in 1994.

He also served as conductor in the 70th Academy Awards.

Further expanding his musical influence, in 2010 Larsen was invited to perform during the Shanghai Expo 2010, at the Shanghai Grand Theatre June 21, the closing night of the International Film Festival and the Shanghai Music Festival. Larsen performed the classics, original compositions, and improvisations. It was the first time CNN had interviewed an artist for the Grand Theatre. The concert was covered by two television stations broadcasting to a total estimated audience of 500 million and included the Shanghai International Channel and the Shanghai Arts Channel filming a documentary of the concert.[8]

Larsen's Volumes[edit]

Volume 1 Arcadia

Twenty-first century composer Carter Larsen has, since 1973, written more than 150 substantial piano and orchestra works in Fantasia Suite, now available in a complete collection of 14 Volumes and as individual books.

  • Volume I - ARCADIA - Solo Piano
  • Volume II - NEXUS - Solo Piano
  • Volume III - EMERANCE - Solo Piano
  • Volume IV - ODYSSEY - Solo Piano
  • Volume V - KALIDA - Solo Piano
  • Volume VI - ALTURAS - Solo Piano
  • Volume X - BRIDGES AND BEYOND - Piano and Orchestra
  • Volume XI - LEGENDS OF THE COSMOS - Piano and Orchestra
  • Volume XII - DIVINATION - Piano and Orchestra
  • Volume XIII - FANTASIAS - Piano and Orchestra
  • Volume Xa - BRIDGES AND BEYOND - Two Pianos
  • Volume XIa - LEGENDS OF THE COSMOS - Two Pianos
  • Volume XIIa - DIVINATION - Two Pianos
  • Volume XIIIa - FANTASIAS - Two Pianos

“The significance of this collection on the culture of classical music cannot be overstated. Larsen’s volumes of solo piano and orchestral music impact classical music’s identity to twenty-first century audiences, who will find that its focus is vital and culturally relevant. This collected edition marks an important and large contribution to piano and orchestra repertoire through its aesthetic vision, originality and legacy.” Dr. Mark Howard, PhD These volumes establish Larsen as one of today’s most prolific piano composers. Larsen compositions represent a continuous cycle of romantic, yet classically written, music in a bold, new contemporary idiom.

Music in film[edit]

Larsen extended his talents to create film and television scores, writing music for major Hollywood studios. He 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. Larsen's films, "Innocents Mission" and Love Bytes, premiered during the Sundance Film Festival and his feature Big Shots premiered during the Cannes Film Festival.

The composer is currently scoring Martin Scorsese’s new film Something to Believe In, as well as creating his most ambitious work, the Fantasia Suite.

Works list[edit]

Fantasia Suite

  • Arcadia
    • Flight, Op. 7
    • Reverence, Op. 36
    • Lumiere, Op. 28
    • Soliloquy, Op. 10
    • Bridges, Op. 3
    • Elegie, Op. 1
    • Brunella, Op. 22
    • Someday, Op. 2
    • Celebration, Op. 21
    • Spirit of Auriel, Op. 18
    • Seagulls of Capri, Op. 5
    • Gypsy’s Waltz, Op. 13
    • Carousel, Op. 25
    • Eternal Rhapsodie, Op. 4
  • Nexus
    • Ethereal Nights, Op. 6
    • Innocence, Op. 17
    • Raging Light, Op. 33
    • Solstice, Op. 12
    • Circus Waltz, Op. 31
    • Dernier Voyage, Op. 37
    • Dragonfly, Op. 46
    • Moonlit Nostalgia, Op. 26
    • Spinato, Op. 68
    • Esprit, Op. 38
    • Lament, Op. 8
    • Mass Ascension Op. 9
  • Emerance
    • Seacliff, Op. 27
    • Elysia, Op. 29
    • Cirrus, Op. 11
    • To the Wind, Op. 41
    • The Game, Op. 67
    • Leonora, Op. 42
    • Spectrum of Triumph, Op. 16
    • Dimanche, Op. 32
    • Mercurious, Op. 73
    • Santorini Op. 35
  • Odyssey
    • Sirens in Trancoso Op. 62
    • Tale of Velasco Op. 72
    • Iris Op. 107
    • Call Of Asturias Op. 66
    • Realization Op. 63
    • Firestorm Op. 69
    • Prophecy Op. 49
    • Delphi Crystals Op. 79
    • Esaltante Op. 105
    • Euphoric Odyssey Op. 45
    • Reminiscence Op. 20
    • Ratanga Op. 61
    • The Gift Op. 14
    • Enrique’s Song Op. 59
    • Lance of Soleris Op. 95
    • March To The Cosmos Op. 44
  • Kalida
    • Sapphire Op. 47
    • Reflect Op. 48
    • Amore E Destino Op. 34
    • Kai Op. 19
    • Folletta Op. 75
    • Spectre Op. 40
    • Valse Pensif Op. 51
    • Alexei’s Mission Op. 86
    • The Vision Op. 30
    • Scherzana Op. 52
    • Rainbow Op. 24
    • Mirage Op. 15
  • Alturas
    • The Story of Glory Op. 126
    • Fate Op. 114
    • Fly with Me Op.127
    • Walls Of Troy Op. 14
    • Solemnity Op. 132
    • Celeste Op. 64
    • Passion Op. 118
    • Harp Whispers Op. 135
    • Resurrection Op. 122
    • Forest Mist Op. 124
    • Eternal Love Op. 140
    • Zampilli Op. 117
    • Azure Op. 98
    • Luna Romantica Op. 139
    • Danza Triste Op. 134
    • Sweet Sorrow Op. 121
    • Silence Of Love Op. 101
    • Dream Of Verona Op. 43
    • Fall River Op. 138
    • Innocence Op. 136
    • Full Sail Op. 148
    • Scarecrow Op. 149
    • Window to Kaja Op. 143
    • The Nomad Op. 142
    • Love At Sunset Op. 131
    • Lago Misterioso Op. 133
    • Land Of The Free Op. 130
    • Crystal Heart Op. 23
  • Bridges and Beyond
    • Bridges Op. 148
    • Gipsy's Waltz Op. 149
    • Elegie Op. 150
    • Eternal Rhapsodie Op. 151
  • Legends of the Cosmos
    • Lemuria Op. 152
    • Pyramids Of Atlantis Op. 153
    • The Gift Op. 154
    • Twilight Of Sitara Op. 155
  • Divination
    • Spring Vision Op. 77
    • Transcendence Op. 78
    • The Maverick Op. 79
    • Dawn Of Freedom Op. 80
  • Fantasias
    • Ethereal Nights Op. 156
    • Solstice Op. 157
    • Spectrums of Triumph Op. 158


  • Solo Saint-Saëns
  • Film Scoring for Piano and Orchestra
  • Scoring Selections
  • Fantasia Suite for Piano and Orchestra
  • Music for Piano - Camille Saint-Saëns
  • Original Music for Film and Television
  • Romantic Rarities
  • Melodic Montage
  • Live at St. Martin-in-the-Fields
  • Fantasia Suite I
  • Fantasia Suite II


  • The Healing Chamber
  • Impressions
  • Big Shots
  • Pierced Heart
  • The Innocents Mission
  • Love Bytes
  • Cannon in Flowers: Film about Chopin and Poland


  • Awakening Elegie
  • Sapphire, Op. 47
  • Appassionato
  • Solstice
  • Bridges and Beyond
  • Impressions


  1. ^ Malibu Times, 27-09-06, Melonie Magruder, "A 'Fantasia' Vision", Malibu, California.
  2. ^ The Times, 21-10-86, Noel Goodwin, "Review of Carter Larsen at the Queen Elizabeth Hall"
  3. ^ Der Bund, 10-11-87, "Der Londoner Pianist Carter Larsen im Berner Konservatorium" Bern
  4. ^ London Evening Standard, 27-06-91, Christopher Grier, "Romantically Inclined"
  5. ^ Hamstead and Highgate Express, 06-08-93, Nicky Bolster, London
  6. ^ Barbican Centre, London, 29-11-87
  7. ^
  8. ^

External links[edit]