David Leisner

  • Fanfare magazine described the music of David Leisner as “rich in invention and melody, emotionally direct, and beautiful.” Guitar Review wrote, “Not many composers manage to be equally satisfying to the hands, the ear and the mind as Leisner has.”

    His music has been performed worldwide by such eminent artists as Wolfgang Holzmair,Sanford Sylvan, Paul Sperry, Patrick Mason, Thomas Meglioranza, William Ferguson, Rufus Müller, Robert Osborne, Juliana Gondek, Susan Narucki, D’Anna Fortunato, Tara O’Connor, Eugenia Zukerman, Benjamin Verdery, David Starobin, the St. Lawrence, Enso and Rubens String Quartets, Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, Cavatina Duo, Arc Duo, Brasil Guitar Duo, Pearl and Gray Duo, Clayton Haslop and Jack Sanders Duo, Saturday Brass Quintet, and orchestras such as the Fresno Philharmonic and the Springfield (MA and MO) and Amarillo Symphonies.

    Leisner’s complete works for flute and guitar have been recorded by the Cavatina Duo on the much acclaimed Acrobats album for the Cedille label, and he himself recorded his complete solo guitar works on Self-Portrait for Azica. Other works currently available on CD are on the SonyClassical, Dorian, Centaur, Town Hall, Signum, Acoustic Music, ABC, Athena, Fleur de Son and Barking Dog labels.

    Works and commissions include Love Dreams of the Exile for the flute/guitar Cavatina Duo and the Avalon String Quartet, Das Wunderbare Wesen for baritone Wolfgang Holzmair and cello, West Wind for tenor William Ferguson and guitar, A Timeless Procession for baritone Holzmair and string quartet, Away for the Arc Duo, Of Darkness and Light for the Stones River Chamber Players, Vision of Orpheus for the St. Lawrence Quartet and Leisner (20th Century Unlimited series), Embrace of Peace for the Fairfield Orchestra, The Cat that Walked by Himself for the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, Battlefield Requiem for solo cellist Laurence Lesser and the New England Conservatory Percussion Ensemble, Fidelity for tenor Bruce Fowler, baritone Robert Osborne and pianist Warren Jones, and Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam for the Saturday Brass Quintet.

    He has received composition grants from the American Music Center, the Alice M. Ditson Fund, the New England Foundation for the Arts and Meet the Composer. His works are published by Theodore Presser Co., G. Schirmer, Doberman-Yppan and Columbia Music.

    David Leisner also maintains a busy career as a concert guitarist, performing in recital and as a soloist with orchestras around the world. Winner of top prizes in international guitar competitions at Geneva and Toronto, he is a featured solo artist with Azica Records, and has recorded chamber music on the Telarc, Koch and Etcetera labels, and concertos for Naxos and Opus One. Leisner is currently the co-chair of the guitar department at the Manhattan School of Music and also taught at the New England Conservatory for 22 years. A regular composition juror for the BMI Student Composer Awards, he has also been a juror for the New York Youth Symphony’s First Works commissions. A graduate of Wesleyan University, he studied composition with Richard Winslow, Virgil Thomson, Charles Turner and David Del Tredici.

  • Cover Title (Subtitle) Duration Instrumentation
    144-40120 Billy Boy Variations
    For Solo Guitar
    144-40306 Cello Suite No. 3
    Arranged for Guitar(arr.)
    144-40558 Disturbed, A Lullaby
    For Solo Guitar
    144-40109 Elegy
    For Guitar(ed.)
    144-40551 Four Pieces
    For Solo Guitar
    15:00 Guitar Unaccompanied
    144-40539 Labyrinths
    For Solo Guitar
    15:00 Guitar Unaccompanied
    140-40113 Labyrinths II
    For Solo Piano
    17:00 Piano Unaccompanied
    114-40275 Liebeslied
    For Guitar Solo(ed.)
    144-40413 Nel Mezzo Sonata for Guitar
    Sonata for Guitar
    144-40188 Partita In A Minor
    For Guitar (Originally for Unaccompanied Flute)(arr.)
    144-40125 Passacaglia and Toccata
    For Guitar
    114-40259 Polacca
    For Guitar Solo(ed.)
    114-40261 Romanze
    For Guitar(ed.)
    144-40267 Tarantelle
    For Guitar(ed.)
    4:00 Guitar Unaccompanied
    114-40280 Two-Part Inventions, From “Five Two-Part Inventions” (1946)
    Arranged for Guitar(arr.)
    5:30 Guitar
    114-40730 Variations On A Tune Of Stephen Foster
    For Guitar(ed.)
    Works for Voice
    141-40081 “O Love Is The Crooked Thing”
    For Medium Voice and Piano
    15:00 Voice with Piano
    491-00418 5 Songs Of Devotion
    141-40086 A Timeless Procession
    For Baritone And String Quartet
    8:30 Voice with Instrument
    141-40079 Confiding
    A Cycle Of 10 Songs To Poems By Women for High Voice and Guitar
    30:00 Voice and Instrument
    141-40077 Confiding
    A Cycle Of 10 Songs To Poems By Women for High Voice and Piano
    30:00 Voice with Piano
    141-40078 Confiding
    A Cycle Of 10 Songs To Poems By Women for Medium Voice and Piano
    30:00 Voice with Piano
    141-40083 Das Wundebare Wesen
    For Baritone and Cello
    11:00 Voice with Instrument
    141-40096 Die Schöne Müllerin
    1:10:00 Baritone, Guitar
    141-40080 Fidelity
    For Tenor (Or Soprano), Baritone and Piano
    25:00 Vocal Duet
    141-40018 Outdoor Shadows
    For High Voice and Guitar
    141-40100 Siete Canciones Populares Españolas
    Seven Popular Songs(arr.)
    Voice, Guitar
    141-40074 Three James Tate Songs
    For Medium Voice and Guitar
    11:00 Voice with Instrument
    141-40076 To Sleep
    For Medium Voice and Piano
    10:00 Voice with Piano
    141-40097 West Wind
    Six Songs for Tenor (or Soprano) and Guitar
    16:00 Voice and Instrument
    111-40091 What Is It?
    For Voice and Guitar(ed.)
    Chamber Ensemble
    144-40720 Battlefield Requiem
    15:00 Mixed Ensemble
    144-40538 Bloom
    For String Quartet
    9:00 String Quartet
    144-40666 Dance of the Blessed Spirits
    (from Orpheus and Eurydice)(arr.)
    3:00 Mixed Duet
    144-40143 Dances In The Madhouse
    For Violin (Or Flute/Piccolo) and Guitar
    144-40716 Ghosting
    9:30 2 Guitars
    144-40686 Love Dreams Of The Exile
    For Flute, Guitar, And String Quartet
    17:00 Mixed Ensemble
    144-40169 Mirage
    For Two Guitars
    5:30 Guitar Duet
    144-40307 Nostalgia
    For Violin (Or Flute) and Guitar
    144-40589 On Jazz Terrain
    For Flute, Bb Clarinet, Alto Saxophone, And Piano
    12:30 Chamber Ensemble
    144-40151 Sonata
    For Violin and Guitar
    144-40627 Sonata In A Minor (“Arpeggione”), D. 821
    Arranged For Cello And Guitar(arr.)
    24:00 Mixed Duet
    144-40452 The Cat That Walked By Himself
    23:00 Guitar Quartet
    144-40414 The Red Cedar Collection
    Artistic Celebration for The 21st Century: for Flute and Guitar
    144-40665 The Swan
    For Cello And Guitar(arr.)
    3:00 Mixed Duet
    444-41017 Three Moons
    For Violoncello and Guitar
    144-40603 Twilight Streams
    For Cello And Guitar
    13:00 String Duet
    144-40540 Vision Of Orpheus
    For Guitar and String Quartet
    18:00 String Quintet
    12779 Dances in the Madhouse
    for Orchestra
    12:00 2(Picc.) 2 2 2 – 2 2 0 0; Perc. Str. (Originally for Vln. or DFl. and Gtr.)
    21774 Embrace of Peace
    for Orchestra
    14:00 2(2 dbl. Picc.) 2 2 2 – 4 2 2 1; Perc. Str.
    23619 Pranayama
    Concert Overture for Orchestra
    9:00 2 2 2 2 – 4 2 0 0; 4(or 3)Perc. Str.

  • Leisner’s songs have proved popular with the younger generation of American singers, and with reason. He has good literary judgment and shows imagination and taste in taking poems from disparate sources and putting them into cycles that trace emotional progress and develop dramatic shape. His prosody is excellent, and he sets words with an ear for sound, rhythm and sense… Best of all, Leisner has a gift for eloquently shaping a vocal line that is also grateful to sing… a gift for bringing a song around right at the very end, particularly in quiet closes that are at once surprising and inevitable.
    –Boston Globe

    Leisner is a thoughtful composer who uses the orchestra with insight.
    –The Stamford Advocate

    …brilliant intellect in combination with brilliant sensitivity…
    –Westport News

    The songs are ravishing. Very sophisticated music all of it. And clean and thin, and it sounds good.
    –Virgil Thomson,

    The songs of David Leisner are real songs: full of good melody, vocally “gracious” (as singers say), accessible to hearers, comparatively easy for pianists, and based on poetry of the highest order but of simple comprehensibility. Leisner’s respect for the voice and for the poet is exemplary. In short, his songs are good to sing and good to listen to. They work.
    –Ned Rorem,

    A Cycle Of 10 Songs To Poems By Women for High
    Like his vibrant guitar performances, David Leisner’s music is colorful and deeply sensitive. His song cycle Confiding, to poems by women, is full of musical and literary interest and leaves an indelible impression upon the listener. Several passages are particularly haunting. David Leisner deserves serious attention.
    –Richard Hundley,

    Leisner’s music was consumer-friendly, his forthright style simultaneously accessible and uncompromising. Spare texture, haunting colors, and fine solo efforts from first violin, oboe, trumpet and flute ignited the “Tango Solitaire.” “Waltz for the Old Folks” and “Ballad for the Lonely” invoked a soothing confluence of innocence and worldly wisdom, and “Samba!” made for an energetic close. Leisner applauded the orchestra and received a warm ovation.
    –Springfield Union-News

    It is refreshing to find a work of such imagination and ingenuity that could be enjoyed by all types of listeners. In fact, virtually every aspect of “Dances in the Madhouse” supports the contention that a composer needn’t sacrifice originality and quality for accessibility … a work of exquisite beauty.
    –Guitar Review

    We heard what may be one of the most spellbinding new compositions I have listened to in many a moon – David Leisner’s “Dances in the Madhouse” … It is one of those small but delightful pieces which we all go to concerts hoping to hear: something new which pleases on its first hearing yet promises to yield further treasures the next time… a contemporary gem.
    –The Easthampton Star

    David Leisner’s four Dances in the Madhouse are a potent addition to the repertory – giddy, attractive reinterpretations of traditional forms.
    –Los Angeles Times

    …an ingenious and arresting compositional voice. …reveling in its coloristic and textural complexities. Labyrinths is a fine addition to the classical guitar repertoire.
    –Lawrence Budmen, South Florida Classical Review

    The five movements, “Shimmer,” “Shadow,” “Shiver,” “Shatter,” and “Shelter” translated these natural effects into musical patterns that slowly evolved and created musical gestures alternately mysterious, playful, and surprising, but always delightful.
    –Scott Cmiel, San Francisco Classical Voice

    for Guitar
    …an original and profoundly personal work … powerful, angry and moving music.

    These pieces are far superior to almost anything else being written for guitar today. Not many composers manage to be equally satisfying to the hands, the ear and the mind as Leisner has.
    –Guitar Review

    The most challenging piece in the collection is the work by David Leisner [Sonata for violin and guitar], who contributed his guidance to this premiere recording. The fire and passion of the outer movements are wonderfully balanced by an almost prayerful central movement, characterized by unexpected modulations that are both technically clever and richly ambiguous in the best poetic sense.

    for Cello and Guitar
    It is a brilliant piece, combining modern compositional elements with lucid and dramatic structures. Leisner’s exploitation of timbres and ranges of the instruments is very inventive. Guitarists who have the opportunity to work with a cellist must really investigate this piece.

  • Ghosting GHOSTING
    CAG Records (CAG 119); June 30, 2017
    Performer(s): Brasil Guitar Duo (João Luiz and Douglas Lora)
    Work(s): Ghosting
    Sephardic Journey SEPHARDIC JOURNEY
    Cedille Records (CDR 90000 163); April 8, 2016
    Performer(s): Cavatina Duo and Avalon String Quartet
    Work(s): Love Dreams of the Exile
    Arpeggione ARPEGGIONE
    Azica Records (ACD-71306); February 26, 2016
    Performer(s): Zuill Bailey, cello, David Leisner, guitar
    Work(s): Twilight Streams
    Crazy Jane CRAZY JANE
    Bridge Records (9290); December 6, 2011
    Performer(s): Patrick Mason, baritone, David Starobin, guitar
    Work(s): Three James Tate Songs
    Orange Moon ORANGE MOON
    Acoustic Music Best (No. 319.1155.242); August 2, 2011
    Performer(s): Villa Lobos Duo: Sven Holger Philippsen, cello, Michael Seubert, guitar
    Work(s): Three Moons
    New Lullaby NEW LULLABY
    Six String Sound (); January 1, 2010
    Performer(s): Aaron Larget-Caplan, guitar
    Work(s): Disturbed, A Lullaby
    Acrobats: Music of David Leisner ACROBATS: MUSIC OF DAVID LEISNER
    Cedille Records (CDR90000 096); April 10, 2007
    Performer(s): Cavatina Duo: Denis Azabagic, guitar, Eugenia Moliner, flute
    Work(s): Dances in the Madhouse
    Self Portrait SELF PORTRAIT
    Azica Records (ACD1236); July 4, 2006
    Performer(s): David Leisner, guitar
    Work(s): Billy Boy Variations
    Four Pieces
    Nel Mezzo: Sonata
    Passacaglia and Toccata
    Quiet Songs QUIET SONGS
    Talking Cat Records (); January 1, 2006
    Performer(s): Olson/De Cari Duo
    Work(s): Outdoor Shadows
    Continental Flavors CONTINENTAL FLAVORS
    TownHall Records (THCD-54); May 23, 2000
    Performer(s): Clayton Haslop, violin, Jack Sanders, guitar
    Work(s): Nostalgia
    Dances in the Madhouse DANCES IN THE MADHOUSE
    Barking Dog Records (); February 4, 2000
    Performer(s): Harris-Coates Duo: Debora Harris, flute, Mike Coates, guitar
    Work(s): Dances in the Madhouse
    Bad Boy BAD BOY
    Signum Records (SIG X70-00); September 17, 1996
    Performer(s): Folkwang Guitar Duo: Volker Niehusmann, Carsten Linck, guitars
    Work(s): Mirage
    Bartok: Rumanian Folk Dances BARTOK: RUMANIAN FOLK DANCES
    Centaur Records (CRC2061); November 4, 1993
    Performer(s): Clayton Haslop, violin, Jack Sanders, guitar
    Work(s): Dances in the Madhouse
    Music for Violin and Guitar MUSIC FOR VIOLIN AND GUITAR
    Athena (Sonora) Records (SACC 102); November 1, 1993
    Performer(s): Arturo Delmoni, violin, David Burgess, guitar
    Work(s): Sonata for Violin and Guitar

  • American Music Center Grant
    Alice M. Ditson Fund Grant
    New England Foundation for the Arts Grant
    Meet the Composer Grant

  • Dances in the Madhouse
    for Orchestra
    Embrace of Peace
    for Orchestra
    Concert Overture for Orchestra