Carter Larsen in Shanghai: Music and the movies

Carter Larsen in Shanghai: Music and the movies

Composer and pianist Carter Larsen brings Hollywood glam and his classical music pedigree to an educational art event at the Shanghai Grand Theatre
Carter Larsen performs at the Shanghai Grand Theatre
Carter Larsen prepares to educate and awe local audiences with his performance at the Shanghai Grand Theater.

Composer and world-renowned pianist Carter Larsen looks refreshingly spirited in a cloudy, humid Shanghai afternoon, only hours after he stepped off a plane in Shanghai. Not his first visit to China, Larsen has performed “Fantasia Suite,” which made him famous for his “21st century Neo-Romantic approach” to music, in both Beijing and Shanghai. “I like Shanghai more [than Beijing]. It’s so international and forward thinking,” he says, smiling.

Larsen is flown in again to perform at the closing event for the Shanghai International Film Festival and the Shanghai Music Festival at the Shanghai Grand Theatre. A fitting event since he is one of the few major composers and classically trained pianists able to bridge the gap between film and classic composition. 

People [in Shanghai] are enlightened and they promote these thoughts and explorations. That is truly how we grow as a society. — Carter Larsen

Composer and pianist 

Larsen began his piano studies at age six, took to composing in his teens and soon became the youngest composition student at the acclaimed Aspen Music School. “I love music. I like all music that is good music. I don’t have a closed mind,” he says, explaining why he chose to be a musician in the first place. 

A celebrated pianist in Europe, Larson has performed in more than 500 concerts there including performances with the Royal Philharmonic and the London Symphony Orchestras.

Although he made a name for himself as a pianist, Larsen is equally known for his film compositions. He has written scores for more than 30 independent and studio features, highlights including “Star Trek,” “Mask of Zorro” and “Bit Shots.”

Although it has become more common for classic composers to get involved in composing for Hollywood movies, it was unthinkable 15 years ago when he began merging the fields. 

“When I first started composing in Hollywood and continued performing in London, I had to hide each one from the other,” says Larsen, recalling his early career. “But surprisingly, the gap between film composing and concert composing is not as wide as people often imagined. In fact, there was no gap at all. “We take [different] elements and put them together and so did Mozart, Chopin and Liszt.” This is the type of experience and knowledge that Larsen hopes to pass on to audiences in Shanghai.

Carter Larsen performs at the Shanghai Grand TheatreShanghai and the future of music in China

Larsen applauds Shanghai Grand Theatre’s efforts for hosting an educational art event, furthering the development of both local and Western culture and music. “People [in Shanghai] are enlightened and they promote these thoughts and explorations. That is truly how we grow as a society.” 

To help the Chinese musical education process continue, his concert tonight will also mark the Asian launch of the Carter Larsen Competition, a chance for “pianists of all ages and nationalities to perform in television and film” and be schooled by Larson himself.

During his educational performance tonight, Larsen will play Saint-Saens’ “Allegro Appasionato,” followed by Bach’s “Preludes” and Liszt’s “Venezia e.Napoli,” because he believes that those pieces represent the development of Western music.

Larsen also reveals that there will be a part during the show in which the audience will call out notes and themes allowing him to improvise from those ideas, demonstrating to the audience the fluidity of music and composition. This type of improvised education “is something that very likely happened 150 years ago but we forget today,” he says. 

June 21, 7:30pm, Shanghai Grand Theatre, 300 Renmin Dadao, near Huangpi Bei Lu, Metro Line 1, 2 & 8 People's Square Station 人民大道300号, 近黄陂北路, 地铁1, 2, 8号线人民广场站, +86 21 6386 8686; for free tickets to this Carter Larsen event, go online.

Born and raised in Suzhou, China, Zixi Jin (Sissi) is currently a student at Columbia University, class of 2013.
Read more about Zixi Jin
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