Born in Chicago in 1951, John Carbon studied composition at Rice University and at the University of California at Santa Barbara where his teachers were Thea Musgrave, Paul Cooper, and Peter Racine Fricker. Carbon's music continues to gain prominence due to an increasing number of high-profile performances and recordings and his output includes three full-length operas, Marie Laveau, Benjamin, and Disappearing Act, along with over 70 choral, orchestral, vocal, and chamber works. Carbon has a special flair for the virtuosity and drama needed for concertos, and has completed works in this genre for clarinet, violin, viola, piano, and double bass.
Mr. Carbon's work has been performed in New York at Merkin Concert Hall, Carnegie Hall and Avery Fisher and Alice Tully Halls at Lincoln Center, Boston's Symphony Hall, and Prague's Smetana Hall. Premieres of Carbon works have been presented by the New York Chamber Symphony, the Czech Radio Orchestra, and the Alaria Chamber Ensemble of New York. His Rhapsody for Clarinet and Orchestra (premiered under Gerard Schwarz at Avery Fisher Hall in November of 1997) was hailed by New York Times critic Allen Kozinn for "its demandingly agile clarinet line that wove its way through a variegated orchestral fabric....rich in coloristic effects of the sort that create a sense of depth rather than artificial glitter.”
Recordings of Carbon's music include his Violin Concerto, released on Three American Concertos (MMC 2059), performed by violinist Peter Zazofsky with Gerhardt Zimmermann conducting the Warsaw National Philharmonic Orchestra. Fanfare critic, Robert Maxham, praised the concerto for the "...finale's dazzling kinetic virtuosity", and in American Record Guide, Bill Faucett commented on the concerto's "...many moments of genuine beauty". Also becoming well-known is the Clarinet Concerto, in a spectacular and highly-acclaimed performance with soloist Richard Stoltzman on MMC 2031 with the Warsaw Philharmonic, and Notturno for Trumpet, Harp, and Strings, performed by Gerard Schwarz (with Jeff Silberschlag on trumpet) and the Seattle Symphony on Delos. (New Yorkers had a chance to hear Notturno live when it was performed by George Manahan leading the New York Chamber Symphony in Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center in April, 1999). Other recordings include two orchestral works--Hommage à Trois, played by the Slovak Radio Symphony under Szymon Kawalla on Vienna Modern Masters 3011, and Inner Voices on MMC 2003 with the Warsaw Philharmonic under Robert Black-- also a chamber work for flute and guitar, Paseos, on CGS 1024223.
Past performances have included several premieres by Ensemble Giverny, with members of the Portland Symphony Orchestra, at the Portland Art Museum, as part of the release of a widely broadcast compact disc recording released by Moonbridge Recordings, Waterlilies; Musical Visions of Monet, in conjunction with the opening of the museum's exhibit centering on the late paintings of Monet. The much-acclaimed chamber music group Alaria, with guest clarinetist Doris Hall-Gulati, performed a new work by Mr. Carbon in Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall in 1999 as part of their chamber music series. Premieres also included those by the Philadelphia Trio in Weiss Center for the Performing Arts at Bucknell University of Do Not Go Gentle and a new chamber music setting of arias from the composer's opera Benjamin in Merkin Concert Hall, New York City. Other notable performances have included those by the Philadelphia-based Network for New Music, Trio Fedele, cellist Stephen Balderston, pianist Edith Orloff, and an appointment as American composer in residence at the 2nd Annual Santa Barbara Chamber Music Festival in June, 2004.
Mr. Carbon has written a number of works influenced by Spanish culture. Presented as part of "Músicos del Norte," Fantasy for Harpsichord and String Quartet was performed by harpsichordist María Teresa Chenlo in 2003 at Casa de América-Palacio de Linares in Madrid, and more recently, Six Spanish Songs for soprano and piano, settings of poems by Federico García Lorca, was performed at the College Music Society International Conference in Alcalá de Henares, Spain, by Colleen Neubert, soprano, and Nanette Solomon, piano.
In July 2002, MMC Recordings released John Carbon, a recording of the composer's Piano Concerto, Rasgos, Rhapsody for Clarinet and Chamber Orchestra and Ghost Town Sketches, with conductors Vladmír Valék, Maron Alsop, Gerard Schwarz, and David Stock conducting the Czech Radio Orchestra, the Concordia Orchestra of New York City, the New York Chamber Symphony, and the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, with soloists pianist William Koseluk, violinist Claire Chan, clarinetist Doris Hall-Gulati, and members of the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble. The CD was hailed by Peter Burwasser in Fanfare as the work of “an extraordinarily talented and compelling composer.” The premiere recording of Endangered Species, a doublebass concerto commissioned by bassist Richard Fredrickson, was released on MMC 2138 performed by the Slovak Radio Orchestra in Bratislava, Slovakia, in November 2002.
John Carbon’s works can frequently be heard on the Franklin and Marshall College campus. In January 2006, as part of the Franklin celebration, Benjamin, Carbon’s full-length opera (composed in 1987, revised in 2005) to a comic libretto by Franklin and Marshall Professor Emeritus Sarah White was given three staged performances in the Roeschel Center for the Performing Arts and a recording of the complete opera was subsequently released by Zimbel Recordings in early 2008.
Additional commissions and performances (2008-2009) have included the premiere of a new song cycle, Queen Victoria’s Journey, based on music from Carbon’s Houdini opera, Disappearing Act (2007, libretto by Dorothy Louise) in New York City at Diller-Quaile School of Music. Mr. Carbon also gave a faculty master class in composition at Diller-Quaile in February 2009. Several performances of Ghost Rags (for soprano sax, viola, bass clarinet and piano) were presented in February 2009, featuring Doris Hall-Gulati, clarinetist. Other activities in 2009 included the first complete performance of John Carbon’s song cycle Letters from Abigail by soprano Elizabeth Wiggins at the University of Southern Illinois, Carbondale, in March, and the premiere of a new Duo Sonata for double bass and viola at Penn State, State College, by bassist Robert Nairn at the annual conference of the International Society of Bassists. In 2010, Zimbel Recordings released John Carbon Played by Steven Graff, a compilation of John Carbon’s piano music. The CD features music composed from 1985-present, including the composer’s Piano Sonata completed in 2009. Violist Heidi von Bernewitz and double bassist Robert Nairn recorded Carbon’s Duo Sonata for the Emeritus label in 2014, and there are plans for a new Zimbel Recordings compilation of his clarinet music that will include a new work for bass clarinet and piano for Doris Hall-Gulati.
Recent performances of John Carbon’s music (2010-present) have been presented in Stockholm, Beijing and Salzburg. His works have also been heard at the Bulgarian Embassy in Washington D.C., played by Trio Clavino, and in New York City at Hunter College, performed by pianist Steven Graff. Upcoming performances scheduled for 2015 include the premiere of a new oratorio, Soldiers of Remembrance (libretto by Sarah White) and a new work for viola and orchestra, Harlequinade, written for violist Todd Sullivan and the Allegro Chamber Orchestra.
Ph.D., Musical Composition, University of California at Santa Barbara, 1983
M.Mus., Musical Composition, Shepherd School, Rice University, Houston, 1979
B.A., Music, College of Creative Studies, University of California at Santa Barbara, 1976
Theory 1: Basic Harmony and Form
Theory 2: Advanced Harmony and Form
Theory 3: Chromatic and Post-Tonal Vocabularies