In 1973 he won the Greater London Arts Association Young Musicians' Scheme award and as a consequence gave more than fifty concerts in the south-east of England between 1973–74. His concerto debut in 1975 was with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos at the Royal Festival Hall, London in a performance of the Concierto de Aranjuez by Joaquín Rodrigo. His first solo LP recording, for the Enigma Classics label, recorded in 1975, was "Guitar Music of Spain". The following year Carlos recorded a Grammy nominated album with John Williams and Friends for CBS with the instrumentation of two guitars, marimba, xylophone and double bass. The group performed throughout the UK for several years.
His first performance in New York in 1978 was at the Mostly Mozart Festival in the Avery Fisher Hall. The New York Times wrote of his performance: “Carlos Bonell is a player of superb poetic gifts”.
In 1981 Carlos made the first of three recordings of Joaquín Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez. Recorded in Canada with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra and Charles Dutoit for the Decca label, it was one of the first digital recording of the concerto and was described as "a magnificent triumph" by the Classical Music magazine. It was awarded a rosette by the Penguin CD Guide and has been frequently singled out as the finest version available.
During 1986 Carlos played Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez five times in London's Royal Festival Hall, with The Royal Philharmonic, The London Symphony Orchestra, The London Philharmonic Orchestra and English Chamber Orchestra.
Between 1987 and 1995 he recorded seven albums ranging from music for solo guitar to concertos with the English Chamber and Royal Philharmonic Orchestras. During the 1980s Carlos Bonell formed an ensemble of three guitars, flute and percussion. It played in more than 20 countries including Australia, Hong Kong, and much of Europe.
In 1995 he gave a 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. 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.
He has played at international Festivals including The City of London, Aldeburgh, Helsinki, Israel, Tanglewood, Sydney, Istanbul, Hong Kong. In 1997 he 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.
In 2004 Carlos Bonell recorded his first DVD. "Classical Guitar Performance" includes music ranging from Bach to Albeniz recorded live in the studio. The same year saw the first book about the guitar by Carlos: "Guitar – An Easy Guide"
In 2006 Carlos undertook a tour of the US which included Fort Worth, Dallas, Atlanta and Las Vegas, presenting his solo programme “Millennium Guitar, the first 1000 years” which includes music from Hildegard von Bingen to works by contemporary composers.
His career also includes recording for TV and Film. He has recorded sound tracks for the Hollywood films City of Angels and The Honest Courtesan and for the BBC TV productions of Inspector Morse and The Politician's Wife.
In 2010 he returned to Japan and the United States for more tours.
In 2004 he directed the Latin Quarter Guitar Festival in London in honour of Greg Smallman, the Australian guitar maker, who visited and lectured in England and Spain for the first time. 2005 saw the first London International Guitar Festival, of which he was founder and artistic director. The festival presented events in five major concert venues. It included an 80th birthday tribute to Venezuelan guitarist Alirio Díaz' Performing artists included Alirio Díaz, John Williams with whom Carlos played duets, Pavel Steidl in his London debut, Elisa Perez-Saponi, Patricia Rozario and others. The festival had two further editions under Carlos Bonell's direction in 2007 and 2008.
In 2010 he devised and inaugurated the Transformations Music Series, presenting guitar-related concerts at London's Bolivar Hall.
In 2008 he recorded the album "Queen Guitar Rhapsodies" of new arrangements of music by the group Queen for solo guitar and symphony orchestra. His arrangement for solo guitar of "Love of my Life" was praised by Queen's Brian May.
From 2006 he has been helping Sir Paul McCartney notate and record a concerto for guitar and orchestra. The work was featured in a June 2007 cover article by The New Yorker magazine*. His CD album "Magical Mystery Guitar Tour" released in 2012 is dedicated to the music of the Beatles in his own arrangements for solo guitar. It went to number one on the UK iTunes Classical charts, and a track from the album reached number four in the Singles' charts.
Carlos Bonell conducts international teaching courses in Italy, Spain, the UK and Mexico. He is Senior Professor at London's Royal College of Music, London; Professor Invitado at the University of Guanajuato in Mexico; and directs the Cátedra Internacional de Guitarra Carlos Bonell in Venezuela. His pupils include Alan Banks, Detlev Bork, Nils Klöfver, Jakob Lindberg, Nigel North, Brad Richter, and numerous others.
In 2007 he was awarded the Spanish prize "Premio Trujamán" for his work for the solo guitar.
“John Williams and Friends" (LP issued 1976) – CBS 73487 / CD issued in 1990 – MK 35108
“Guitar Music of Spain" (1976) – Enigma Classics
“Guitar Music of the Baroque" (1977) – Enigma Classics
“Showpieces" (1981) – Decca SXL6950
“Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez + Fantasía para un Gentilhombre” with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra conducted by Charles Dutoit (1981) – Decca LP SXDL7525 / Decca CD 4482432
“Paganini Trios and Quartets” with Salvatore Accardo (violin and viola), Sylvie Gazeau (violin), Alfonso Ghedin (viola), Rocco Filippini (cello) (1982)- FonitCetra ITL70091
“Twentieth Century Music for Guitar” (1987) – EMI CDC 7495122
“Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez + Fantasía para un Gentilhombre” with the English Chamber Orchestra conducted by Steuart Bedford (1989) – Collins Classics 1032
“Fandango” (1990) – ASV Ltd CD QS 6038
“Once upon a Time in the West” with Xer-Wai (violin) (1993) – Elite Music EL 5027
“William Walton” (1994) – Chandos
“Rodrigo: Concierto de Aranjuez + Fantasía para un Gentilhombre” with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Jacek Kaspszyk (1994) – Tring TRP050
“Benjamin Britten” (1995) – Collins Classics
“The Sea in Spring” – Carlos Bonell with his Ensemble (1997)- Upbeat Classics URCD 128
“The Passion of Morse” (1997) – Tring 003
“The Private Collection” (1998) – Upbeat Classics URCD 145
“Kinkachoo, I love you (Millennium Guitar, the first 1000 years)” (1999) – Rainbow Classics 993010
“Song of the Sea” (2004) – Spearhead Music SM 100
“Classical Guitar Performance” (2005) – Young/Bonell Production
“Queen Guitar Rhapsodies” (2008) – Young/Bonell Production
“Saints and Fireworks” (2010) – Spearhead Music SM 200
“Magical Mystery Guitar Tour” (2012) – Young/Bonell ProductionCity of Angels
The Honest Courtesan (released as Dangerous Beauty in the US)
The Politician's Wife
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 978-18433033432007 'Essential Classics for Guitar – Bonell /Young Publications