carlos Bonell

- Scroll below for short version of biography -
- Scroll below for commissions and premieres -
- Scroll below for publications -


CARLOS BONELL has been described by Classical Guitar Magazine, UK as "one of the great communicators of the guitar world". He has recorded more than twenty albums and played in forty countries, with concert appearances ranging from intimate recitals to concertos with symphony orchestras.

His latest album Magical Mystery Guitar Tour, inspired by his association with Sir Paul McCartney, is dedicated to the music of the Beatles in Carlos' own arrangements for solo guitar. It went to number one on the UK iTunes classical album charts in May 2012.

Carlos was born in London of Spanish parents in 1949. He started to play at the age of five, learning to play Spanish folk music on the guitar from his father who was a keen amateur guitarist, while also studying the violin more formally at school. He completed his studies at the Royal College of Music with John Williams, where he was appointed the youngest ever professor at the age of 22. His solo début in 1971 was a sell-out concert at the Purcell Room in the Royal Festival Hall, London; his concerto début was with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra in 1975.

Early recordings and tours
In 1975 Carlos released his first LP recording Guitar Music of Spain. The following year Carlos recorded a Grammy nominated album with John Williams and Friends for CBS with the unusual instrumentation of two guitars, marimba, xylophone and double bass. The group performed throughout the UK for several years.

Photo: LP album cover for Guitar Music of the Baroque, 1977

Carlos' New York début was at the Lincoln Arts Centre in 1978. The next day the New York Times described him as "an artist of superb poetic gifts". Appearances at many international festivals followed including The City of London, Aldeburgh, Helsinki, Israel, Tanglewood, Sydney, Istanbul, and Hong Kong.

The Aranjuez Concerto
In 1981 Carlos made the first of three recordings of Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez. Recorded in Canada with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and Charles Dutoit for the Decca label, it was the first-ever digital recording of the concerto and was hailed as "a magnificent triumph" by Classical Music magazine. It was awarded a coveted rosette by the Penguin CD Guide and has been frequently singled out ever since as the finest version available.

1986 proved a high point for the popularity of Carlos playing Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez: he presented it five times in London's Royal Festival Hall with the The Royal Philharmonic, the London Symphony, The London Philharmonic and the English Chamber Orchestras.

Between 1987 and 1995 he recorded seven albums ranging from music for solo guitar to concertos with the English Chamber and Royal Philharmonic Orchestras. His concerts included the premières of works by Humphrey Searle, Stephen Oliver, Howard Skempton, Richard Charlton, Ottavio Négro, Barrington Pheloung and others.

With John Williams at the Wigmore Hall


Photo: benefit concert at The Forum, Kentish Town, London with John Williams and Paco Peña, 1999

In 1995 Carlos gave a landmark benefit concert at London's Wigmore Hall with John Williams to raise awareness of the plight of children caught in acts of war around the world. All proceeds were donated to the organisation War Child. This was one of many appearances with John Williams during a lifetime's association. Other artists with whom Carlos has recorded and appeared in concert include guitarists Paco Peña and Martin Taylor, violinists Pinchas Zukerman and Salvatore Accardo, and singers Patricia Rozario, Teresa Berganza and the late Philip Langridge.

In 1997 Carlos visited Australia for the first time, returning several years later in a nationwide tour including all the major cities. After his first visit to Latin America in 2000 he returned every year until 2007 to play with Venezuelan orchestras associated with El Sistema, working closely with some of the younger players prior to performances. This led eventually to recording the Queen Guitar Rhapsodies album with the Lara Symphony Orchestra who pioneered El Sistema.

London International Guitar Festival
2005 also saw the first London International Guitar Festival, of which Carlos was founder and artistic director. The festival has remained to this day the largest guitar festival ever presented in London with events in five major concert venues. It included an 80th birthday tribute to Venezuelan guitarist Alirio Díaz with his participation and that of other Venezuelan musicians; concertos with the Chamber Ensemble of London; and duets by Carlos with John Williams and the flamenco dancer Elisa Perez-Saponi.

Sir Paul McCartney
In 2006 Carlos began to help Sir Paul McCartney who is composing a concerto for guitar and orchestra. Over many meetings he has notated and recorded drafts of the guitar part. The work was featured in a June 2007 cover article by The New Yorker magazine.

In 2010 he returned to Japan for an extended tour and initiated a concert series in London called the Transformations Music Series, presenting innovative guitar-related concerts at London's Bolivar Hall, a venue with one of the finest acoustics in the heart of the capital.

Carlos' teaching
Carlos is greatly in demand as a teacher, conducting international teaching courses in Italy, Spain and the UK. In addition to his teaching as senior professor at London's Royal College of Music he is Profesor Invitado at the University of Guanajuato.in Mexico. In Venezuela he was awarded the Cátedra Internacional de Guitarra Carlos Bonell in recognition of his teaching activities.


Photo: Guanajuato, Mexico, 2011

Magical Mystery Guitar Tour
Throughout his career Carlos has devised and presented themed programmes which have attracted new audiences to the classical guitar. They include The Life of Joaquín Rodrigo in His Own Words and Music with Cecilia Rodrigo reciting the words of her father; Tribute to Lorca in Words and Music in memory of the great Spanish poet and musician; Millennium Guitar, the First 1000 Years released on CD in 1999; and Magical Mystery Guitar Tour, released on CD in 2012, which is dedicated to the music of the Beatles in Carlos' own arrangements for solo guitar.

As well as going to number one on itunes, Magical Mystery Guitar Tour also entered the UK itunes Top Ten singles' charts.

During 2013 Carlos toured extensively through the UK, Europe and the Americas. Plans for 2014 include première recordings, two tours of the USA, teaching and masterclasses.

updated 31st December 2013

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Shorter version of biography for publication
CARLOS BONELL has been described by the Classical Guitar Magazine, UK as "one of the great communicators of the guitar world". He has recorded more than twenty albums and played in forty countries, with concert appearances ranging from intimate recitals to concertos with symphony orchestras.

His latest album Magical Mystery Guitar Tour, inspired by his association with Sir Paul McCartney is dedicated to the music of the Beatles in Carlos' own arrangements for solo guitar. It went to number one on the UK iTunes classical album charts in May 2012.

Carlos was born in London of Spanish parents in 1949. He started to play at the age of five, learning to play Spanish folk music from his father who was a keen amateur guitarist. He completed his studies at the Royal College of Music with John Williams, where he was appointed the youngest ever professor at the age of 22.

After Carlos' New York début in 1978, the New York Times described him as an artist of "superb poetic gifts".Appearances followed at many international Festivals followed including The City of London, Aldeburgh, Helsinki, Israel, Tanglewood, Sydney, Istanbul, and Hong Kong.

In 1981 Carlos made the first of his three recordings of Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez. Recorded in Canada with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and Charles Dutoit for the Decca label, it was the first-ever digital recording of the concerto and was hailed as "a magnificent triumph" by the Classical Music magazine. It was awarded a coveted rosette by the Penguin CD Guide and has been frequently singled out ever since as the finest version available.

In 1995 Carlos gave a landmark benefit concert at the Wigmore Hall, London with John Williams to raise awareness of the plight of children around the world caught in acts of war. All proceeds were donated to the organisation War Child. This was one of many appearances with John Williams during a lifetime's association.

2005 saw the first London International Guitar Festival, of which Carlos was founder and artistic director. The festival has remained to this day the largest guitar festival ever presented in London with events in five major halls.

In 2006 Carlos began to help Sir Paul McCartney who is composing a concerto for guitar and orchestra. Over many meetings he has notated and recorded drafts of the guitar part. The work was featured in a June 2007 cover article by The New Yorker magazine.

Carlos' interest in bringing the classical guitar into the mainstream led in 2008 to his album release Queen Guitar Rhapsodies, in concerto-style arrangements of music by the group Queen for solo guitar and symphony orchestra. It was widely praised, including by Queen's Brian May.

In 2012 Carlos released a new album Magical Mystery Guitar Tour dedicated to his own arrangements for solo guitar of music by The Beatles. As well as going to number one on the UK classical iTunes charts, the album also entered the top ten in the overall UK iTunes charts.

During 2013 Carlos toured extensively through the UK, Europe and the Americas. Plans for 2014 include première recordings, two tours of the USA, teaching and masterclasses.

updated 31st December 2013

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Commissions and Premières
- selected works -
For solo guitar unless otherwise stated

1974
Michael Blake Watkins:
Double Concerto for oboe and guitar with Graham Salter
St John's Smith Square, London

1975
Michael Blake Watkins:
Solus
Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

1975
Brian Wright:
In Memoriam Django Reinhardt
Purcell Room, South Bank, London

1976
Michael Blake Watkins:
Spirit of the Earth
Queen Elizabeth Hall

1976
Gary Carpenter:
Rondeaux
Purcell Room, South Bank, London

1979
Bryan Kelly:
Guitar Concerto with Oxford Pro Musica
Oxford

1980
Bryan Kelly:
Capricorn Variations

1980
Douglas Young:
Song cycle for mezzo-soprano and guitar with Margaret Field
BBC Radio 3 broadcast première

1981
Reginald Smith-Brindle:
Guitar Concerto with BBC Welsh Symphony Orchestra
BBC Radio 3 broadcast première

1984
Ottavio Négro:
Attahuallpa's Dream (for the Carlos Bonell Ensemble- panpipes, percussion + 3 guitars)
Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

1985
Ottavio Négro
Dulcinea for flute and guitar with Mara del Sol

1986
Ottavio Négro:
Notte
Royal Academy of Music, Glasgow

1988
Stephen Oliver:
Sonata
Purcell Room, South Bank, London

1988
Ottavio Négro:
Sonata Lirica
Royal Academy of Music, Glasgow

1989
John Arran:
Concerto for Guitar and Orchestra
Chester, UK

1990
Ernesto Cordero:
Song cycle with Patricia Rozario soprano
UK première

1991
Ernesto Cordero:
Pinceladas Nocturnas
UK première

1992
Leo Brouwer:
Concierto Elegiaco for guitar and orchestra
BBC Radio 3 broadcast première

1994
Barrington Pheloung:
Concerto for Guitar and String Orchestra
Nottingham International Guitar Festival

1995
Ottavio Négro:
Variations on La Follia
for 3 guitars
Click here for archive information
The Carlos Bonell Ensemble

1995
Ottavio Négro:
Music for a Languishing Prince

1997
Richard Charlton:
Quartet for flute, clarinet, 3 guitars
The Carlos Bonell Ensemble
Keele University, UK

1999
Barrington Pheloung:
Tjukurpa(( In The Dreamtime)
Wigmore Hall, London

1999
Howard Skempton:
5 Preludes
Wigmore Hall, London

2000
Armand Coeck:
Constellation
UK première

2000
Phillip Houghton:
Kinkachoo, I love you
UK première

2005
Phillip Houghton:
Ophelia
London International Guitar Festival
Royal College of Music, London

2005
Elvis Suarez:
Delta for guitar orchestra and visual effects
University of Ulster, Londonderry, Northern Ireland

2006
Elvis Suarez:
Passacaille
University of Ulster, Londonderry, Northern Ireland

2007
Carlos Bonell:
3 Canciones Españolas

2010
Gordon Mizzi:
Love Poem ‘Lahaina'
Maltese Lullaby
Maltija

Bolivar Hall, London

2010
Paul Coles:
Quintet 'a la española' for guitar and string quartet
Bournemouth Chamber Music Society, UK

2011
Laurence Roman:
Quintet for guitar and string quartet
University of Ulster, Londonderry

2012
Rosalino Di Salvo:
La deriva deo sensi for 3 guitars
with Flavio Cucchi and Claudio Piastra
Festival chitarristico I colori della musica,
Celano, Italy

2014
Brad Richter:
3 Guitar Duos
with Brad Richter, guitar
Wickenburg, Arizona, USA

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Publications
1975 Spanish folk songs and dances - Ariel Publications

1977 Gaspar Sanz airs and dances - Ariel Publications

1980 A Tarrega collection - Ariel Publications

1983 First Pieces for solo guitar- Ricordi

1983 The Romantic collection - International Music Publishers

1983 The Classical collection - International Music Publishers

1984 Spanish folk songs for 3 guitars - Schott Music

1984 Purcell: 3 pieces - Schott Music

1984 Tarrega: Fantasia - Schott Music

1998 Technique Builder - Cambridge Music Works

2005 Guitar, An Easy Guide - New Holland Publishers Ltd ISBN-13: 978-1843303343

2007 Essential Classics for Guitar - Bonell /Young Publications