Mr. Leisner’s career as a guitarist began auspiciously with top prizes in both the 1975 Toronto and 1981 Geneva International Guitar Competitions. In the 1980s, a disabling hand injury, focal dystonia, interrupted his performing career in mid-stream and plagued him for 12 years. Through a pioneering approach to technique based on his understanding of the physical aspects of playing the guitar, Leisner gradually rehabilitated himself. Now completely recovered, he has once again resumed an active performing career, earning accolades wherever he plays.
David Leisner’s recent seasons have taken him around the US, including his solo debut with the Atlanta Symphony, a major tour of Australia and New Zealand, and debuts and reappearances in Japan, the Philippines, Germany, Hungary, Switzerland, Austria, Sweden, Denmark, Ireland, the U.K., Italy, Czech Republic, Greece, Puerto Rico 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. In the US, he has appeared on concert series in such notable venues as Boston’s Jordan Hall and Gardner Museum, the Cleveland Museum of Art, Spivey Hall in Atlanta, Royce Hall
in Los Angeles, the Folly Theater in Kansas City, St. Francis Auditorium in Santa Fe, and New York’s Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, 92nd St. Y and Symphony Space. A featured recording artist for Azica Records, Leisner has released 6 highly acclaimed solo CD’s of music by Bach, Villa-Lobos, Mertz and Schubert, Contemporary composers, Leisner and Matiegka. A recent release is the Naxos recording of the Hovhaness Concerto with Gerard Schwarz and the Berlin Radio Orchestra. His collaborations with Boston Symphony Orchestra flutist Fenwick Smith have been recorded on the Etcetera and Koch labels, with music by Rorem and Pinkham, and his most recent chamber music recordings of Hovhaness and Haydn are with harpist
Yolanda Kondonassis on Telarc and the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival on Koch. The Mel Bay Company has released a solo concert DVD called Classics and
Mr. Leisner has appeared as a soloist with many internationally renowned orchestras, including the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, Berlin Radio Orchestra, Australian Chamber Orchestra, Atlanta Symphony, Brooklyn Philharmonic, New York Chamber Ensemble, and the Chamber Orchestra of New England. About his Piazzolla performance with the Atlanta Symphony, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that “the audience reacted in a frenzy that nowadays, few Beethoven or Bruckner concerts can generate.” Also in great demand as a chamber musician, he has performed chamber music at the Santa Fe, Rockport, Vail Valley, Cape and Islands, Bargemusic, Bay Chamber and Angel Fire Festivals, with Eugenia Zukerman, Kurt Ollmann, Lucy Shelton, Ida Kavafian, the Vermeer Quartet and many others. Celebrated for expanding the guitar repertoire, David Leisner has introduced many important new works and has been a tireless advocate for neglected gems of the past. He has premiered works by many important composers, including Virgil Thomson, Ned Rorem, Philip Glass, Richard Rodney Bennett, Peter Sculthorpe and Osvaldo Golijov. He was also a pioneer in the rediscovery of Johann Kaspar Mertz (1806-
1856), whose music he recorded on The Viennese Guitar (Titanic) and edited for publication by the Theodore Presser Company, as well as Wenzeslaus Matiegka (1773-1830), whose music he recorded on an Azica CD to be released in the early fall of 2008.
Mr. Leisner has also become 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”. Guitar Review wrote, “Not many composers manage to be equally satisfying to the hands, the ear and the mind as Leisner has.” His works have been performed worldwide by such eminent artists as Sanford Sylvan, Paul Sperry, Robert Osborne, Juliana Gondek, Susan Narucki, D’Anna Fortunato, Warren Jones, Eugenia Zukerman, Benjamin Verdery, Cavatina Duo, Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, Arc Duo, Saturday Brass Quintet, the Eastman and Oberlin Percussion Ensembles and orchestras from coast to coast. His Dances in the
Madhouse, in both its original version for violin and guitar and as an arrangement for
orchestra, has received hundreds of performances. 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.
Recent commissions and premieres include Labyrinths II for pianist Colin Stone, Timeless Procession for baritone Wolfgang 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 String Quartet and Leisner, Embrace of Peace for the Fairfield (CT) Orchestra, which was described by the Westport News as reflecting “a brilliant intellect in combination with brilliant sensitivity,” and Battlefield Requiem for cellist Laurence Lesser and the New England Conservatory Percussion Ensemble. He has received grants from the Aaron Copland Fund for Music, the American Music Center, the Alice M. Ditson Fund, the New England Foundation for the Arts, and Meet the Composer.
David Leisner is currently co-chairman of the guitar department at the Manhattan School of Music and taught at the New England Conservatory for 22 years. His lively master classes have been featured at such institutions as the Royal Academy of Music, the Royal Northern College of Music, Graz University, Yale University, USC, the Cleveland and Peabody Institutes of Music, San Francisco and Cincinnati Conservatories, and many schools and music festivals around the world. Mr. Leisner is a graduate of Wesleyan University. 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.