David Leisner is an extraordinarily versatile musician with a multi-faceted career as an electrifying performing artist, a distinguished composer, and a master teacher. Regarded as one of America's leading classical guitarists, his superb musicianship and provocative programming have been applauded by critics and audiences around the world. He has been acclaimed as "a triple-threat performer" by The New York Times and a "serious, exploratory and imaginative musician" by The Boston Globe.
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, cut off his blossoming 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 Phillipines, Hungary, Switzerland, Austria, 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, the St. Francis Auditorium in Santa Fe, and the Augustine Guitar Series in New York City.
A featured recording artist for the new label, Azica Records, Leisner has released 4 highly acclaimed solo CD’s of music by Bach, Villa-Lobos, Mertz and Schubert, and Contemporary composers. Soon to be released is an album of his own compositions. 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.
Mr. Leisner has appeared as a soloist with many internationally renowned orchestras, including the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, the Australian Chamber Orchestra, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, the New York Chamber Ensemble, and the Chamber Orchestra of New England. His recent solo debut at the Brooklyn Philharmonic with conductor Robert Spano was deemed “absolutely splendid” by the New York Times. Also in great demand as a chamber musician, he has been a regular performer at the Santa Fe, Bowdoin, Vail Valley, Cape and Islands, Bargemusic and Angel Fire Music Festivals. His duo with flutist Eugenia Zukerman has delighted audiences in New Mexico, Colorado and Maine.
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 of today's most 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 for the Titanic label and edited for publication by the Theodore Presser Company.
During the time he was unable to perform, Mr. Leisner became a highly respected composer noted for the emotional and dramatic power of his music. 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. 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, the Los Angeles Guitar Quartet, the Saturday Brass Quintet, the Eastman and Oberlin Percussion Ensembles and orchestras from coast to coast. His music has been recorded for such labels as Sony Classical, Dorian, Centaur, Signum, Athena, Barking Dog and Acoustic Music. Recent commissions and premieres include A Timeless Procession for baritone Wolfgang Holzmair and string quartet, Of Darkness and Light for the Stones River Chamber Players, Vision of Orpheus for the St. Lawrence String Quartet and Leisner on the 20th Century Unlimited Series in Santa Fe, 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.
A revered and distinguished teacher, 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. Website