At the Piano and With the Audience

April 26, 2011 Updated: April 26, 2011

SELECTING NOTES: Carter Larsen asked the audience for notes and then composed a piece impromptu from them. (Kwiri Yang)
SELECTING NOTES: Carter Larsen asked the audience for notes and then composed a piece impromptu from them. (Kwiri Yang)
LOS ANGELES—Earlier this month, Carter Larsen shared with guests both his birthday and a 21st century Neo-Romantic performance, at the exceptional Zipper Hall at the Colburn School of Music in downtown Los Angeles.

This performance announced to the Hollywood scene the Carter Larsen Project, a project which provides Hollywood performers the opportunity to participate in concerts which will be filmed in Los Angeles and eventually broadcast internationally.

The evening started with a red carpet for the many celebrities in attendance. It then moved to the casual, yet eventful performance.

With an amazing intensity, Carter Larsen displayed his fluidity on the piano. His ability to improvise throughout a piece, moving from one chord to another was seamless and natural, accentuated with syncopation, and other permutations and expressions. He is an exceptional performer.

Larsen also has a natural, interactive stage presence. Between pieces, he took time to engage with the audience about his technique, Bach, and his life experiences.

He was born in San Francisco and studied at the Conservatory of Music with John Adams. Thereafter he studied in London with Feuchtwanger, and then moved to Paris.

AT THE KEYBOARD: A bird's eye view of Carter Larsen at the piano. (Kwiri Yang )
AT THE KEYBOARD: A bird's eye view of Carter Larsen at the piano. (Kwiri Yang )
He is a prolific composer and claims a musical bloodline directly from the great European composers of Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin, Haydn, Liszt, Mozart, and Ravel.

During the early part of the performance, Carter brought out a book of Bach’s music. (He values Bach’s works, but his lineage does not include this famous composer.) He proceeded to play several pieces and then asked the audience to select one for him to perform. A woman shouted out, “The Seventh!” which happens to approach his own composition style.

Larsen brought a fullness of expression to his pieces. Unexpectedly, Bach seemed almost bland, compared to what we, the audience, had grown accustomed to in Larsen’s rich and intense pieces earlier in the evening’s performance.

At one point in the program he requested three notes from the audience, insisting on only one note per person. Many hands went up. A woman and two men responded as he pointed to them, “A”, “D,” and “B minus,” which caused a momentary pause, and suddenly drew a simultaneous “B flat” with laughter from Larsen and the audience.

From these three notes, he composed, after only a momentary pause, flowing expressions constructed around an expected disjointed sound of the triplet—a cacophony which never manifested. The “Bravo!” at the end of this improvisation was well earned.

The piano was truly an extension of Larsen’s expression, as if the instrument itself found joy in conveying his passion.

At his birthday reception afterwards, we had the opportunity to talk briefly. He is truly affable and interested in his audience.

Many guests expressed their anticipation of attending another performance.