Guitar, Chair of the Guitar Department (College)
David Leisner, Chair of the Guitar Department, is an extraordinarily versatile musician with a multi-faceted career as an electrifying performing artist, a distinguished composer, and a master teacher. He is “among the finest guitarists of all time,” according to American Record Guide.
David Leisner’s career began auspiciously with top prizes in both the 1975 Toronto and 1981 Geneva International Guitar Competitions. His recent seasons have taken him around the U.S., including his solo debut with the Atlanta Symphony, a major tour of Australia and New Zealand, and debuts and reappearances in China, Japan, the Philippines, Germany, Hungary, Switzerland, Austria, Denmark, Sweden, Ireland, the U.K., Italy, Czech Republic, Greece, Puerto Rico, Canada, and Mexico. An innovative three-concert series at Weill Recital Hall in Carnegie Hall included the first all-Bach guitar recital in New York’s history. Currently Artistic Director of Guitar Plus, a New York series devoted to chamber music with the guitar, David Leisner has also performed chamber music at the Santa Fe, Vail Valley, Rockport, Cape and Islands, Bargemusic, Bay Chamber, Portland, Sitka, and Angel Fire Festivals, with Tara O’Connor, Eugenia Zukerman, Rufus Müller, Kurt Ollmann, Lucy Shelton, Ida Kavafian, Mark Peskanov, Zuill Bailey, the St. Lawrence, Vermeer, and Enso Quartets, and many others. Celebrated for expanding the guitar repertoire, David Leisner has premiered works by many important composers, including David Del Tredici, Virgil Thomson, Ned Rorem, Philip Glass, Richard Rodney Bennett, Peter Sculthorpe, and Osvaldo Golijov, while spearheading the revival of neglected 19th-century composers J. K. Mertz and Wenzeslaus Matiegka.
A featured recording artist for Azica Records, David Leisner has released nine highly acclaimed CDs, including the most recent, Arpeggione with cellist Zuill Bailey, and Facts of Life, featuring the premiere recordings of commissioned works by Del Tredici and Golijov. Naxos produced his recording of the Hovhaness Concerto with Gerard Schwarz and the Berlin Radio Orchestra. Other CDs include the Koch recording of the Haydn Quartet in D with the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival; Hovhaness’s Spirit of Trees for Telarc with harpist Yolanda Kondonassis; and a solo concert DVD called Classics and Discoveries released by Mel Bay Co.
Mr. Leisner is also a highly respected composer noted for the emotional and dramatic power of his music. Fanfare magazine described it as “rich in invention and melody, emotionally direct, and beautiful.” South Florida Classical Review called him “an original and arresting compositional voice.” Recent commissioners include the baritone Wolfgang Holzmair, Cavatina Duo and Cedille Records, Symphony Space and the Brasil Guitar Duo, Arc Duo, Stones River Chamber Players (TN), Fairfield Orchestra (CT), Red Cedar Chamber Music (IA), and the Twentieth Century Unlimited Series (NM). Recordings of his works are currently available on the Sony Classical, ABC, Dorian, Azica, Cedille, Centaur, CAG, Town Hall, Signum, Acoustic Music, Athena, and Barking Dog labels. The Cavatina Duo’s recording of his complete works for flute and guitar, Acrobats (Cedille), was released to exceptionally strong reviews. His compositions are published by Merion Music/Theodore Presser Co. primarily and by AMP/G. Schirmer, Doberman-Yppan, and Columbia Music.
Mr. Leisner taught for over two decades at the New England Conservatory and is in demand as a master class teacher worldwide. His book about ergonomic guitar technique, Playing with Ease, is due for publication by Oxford University Press in early 2018. Primarily self-taught as both guitarist and composer, he briefly studied guitar with John Duarte, David Starobin, and Angelo Gilardino and composition with Richard Winslow, Virgil Thomson, Charles Turner, and David Del Tredici.