David Leisner

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

David Leisner David Leisner (Photo courtesy of Kate Raudenbush)

Vision of Orpheus

Performed by the iO String Quartet; David Leisner, guitar

Vision of Orpheus, a painting by Santa Fe artist Mark Spencer, provided the initial inspiration for my quintet of the same name for guitar and string quartet.  It is a representation of what Orpheus might have seen on the verge of leaving the Underworld: a glimpse of the blue sky above, with all the simple happiness that it promised, from the dark, complex, eerie, messy world below. Throughout the five-movement work, the guitar evokes the character of Orpheus, the great lyre player of the myth, while the string quartet conjures the gods of the Underworld. In the final movement, the theme that in varying octaves has been a constant presence throughout now transforms into a simple folk tune in the distant blue, a promise of happiness and contentment, played by the guitar in the optimistic key of E major, while the muted strings continue their underworld themes in the distant key of the opening movement. The folk tune becomes more and more distant and eventually evaporates as Orpheus turns, at the last moment, to look back at Eurydice, which he was instructed not to do, and he loses her.  


Performed by Eugenia Moliner, flute; Katja Kleijn, cello; Denis Azbagic, guitar.

The first movement of Trittico for flute, cello and guitar is an abstract piece.  Light and straightforward, it needs no special words of introduction.  

More in:

Comments [50]

francesco biraghi from milano, italy

in the music written by David Leisner I find always a firmly logical structure but what does remain is finally the artistic message. this is the feature of the great composers, who are able to hidden the technical aspect of their style, and reach the souls of the audience.

Nov. 16 2010 02:44 PM
Brian from Chicago

David Leisner's Vision of Orpheus creates its impression by a skillful use of string writing against the guitar's simple folk melody. The strings "hold" the otherwise guileless melody in an envelope of uneasiness: sliding up and back down, hovering below in a foreign key area, or swelling around the guitar. Eventually the guitar begins to participate in this foreboding feeling. It is a very effective emotional painting.

Trittico exudes an easy happiness. It is rhythmic, interesting, and without pretense. This is music that I find immediately appealing, but sophisticated enough to want to hear many times again. Bravo!

Aug. 09 2010 01:32 PM
Gilbert Biberian from Cheltenham, England

David is certainly emerging: as a real master. He is utterly sure-footed and does not waste any notes. He is first and foremost a man who communicates real issues of living through notes (he is no mere writer of notes!). That, in my book, is what a real composer is: a person who responds to a spiritual imperative and has the tools with which to forge the expression of it in musical notes. David is a great talent. Orpheus will strike a grand coup in getting him to write a work.
Gilbert Biberian. 07.07.10

Jul. 07 2010 05:03 PM
Paola Prestini from SF

Beautiful music, from an inspiring man!

Jul. 06 2010 01:06 PM
Wesley York

In these excerpts I hear the clarity and coherence of other works by David Leisner that I know. In one memorable work that I have heard in its entirety, Acrobat, for flute and guitar, he writes with imagination and skill to constantly refresh the flow of colors as the pieces unfolds. The entire multiple-movement work is soulful and quite simply a joy to experience. I have no doubt that he would create a fine new work for Orpheus.

Jun. 28 2010 06:21 PM
Robert Osborne from NYC

David Leisner is a very creative man - guitarist, composer, teacher, art connoisseur. His original and captivating compositions are a large part of that creativity. His works are accessible, provocative, and personal. Surely he would produce something fresh with this commission and would write idiomatically for all the instruments involved. And I expect he will be "emerging" for the rest of his blessed life!

Jun. 27 2010 10:43 PM

Immediately grabbed me. Excellent use of the instruments, he does not fight them as others so tenaciously do, but use them. I have not heard a mixture between tonality and pantonality in such a distinct way.

Jun. 27 2010 03:05 AM
Cindy McTee

These two beautifully crafted musical examples beg for much more listening which I highly recommend. I am a huge fan of David Leisner’s music and applaud all efforts to provide opportunities for its performance.

Jun. 26 2010 09:59 AM
Dr. Vega from Berlin, Germany

Tottaly agree with Dr. Scott Giles.

Jun. 26 2010 06:13 AM
Alexandra from NYC

Leisner possesses his own particular, previously established, musical language that is resonant and meaningful in current time which must continue to grow--especially orchestrally. Orpheus holds keys to help allow this language to blossom. Of course they do. Let's listen.

Jun. 26 2010 03:35 AM
Sophie Lynford from NY

I find the juxtaposition between the visual and the musical to be wonderfully tangible in this piece. Looking forward to hearing more!

Jun. 25 2010 07:52 PM
shula mustacchi from New York

Bravo! Evocative, truly moved by the pictures I saw in the music.

Jun. 24 2010 08:53 AM
Emanuele Segre from Milan, Italy

I warmly love David Leisner's music: always carefully
written, always inspired and always genuine. The two
even though short, are good examples of his work.
Vision of Orpheus, being quite a recent
composition, fairly exeplifies Leisner's latest production,
quite introspective and dark. The flamboyant movement from
Trittico shows the conversation of the three instruments
involved and the guitar is treated as a real concertante
instrument. Sparkling!

Jun. 23 2010 05:42 PM
Jeffrey Zeigler from San Francisco

Simply put, David Leisner writes great music. Extremely well crafted and beautiful. He's a great guitarist too!

Jun. 23 2010 03:40 PM
Gillian Omalyev from Connecticut

I have always found David's music to extremely poetic, intelligent and emotional as well as completely accessible to the modern day mind sets of todays performers and, most importantly, listeners. Whether it is an abstract or programmatic piece there is always something to be found for everyone.

Jun. 23 2010 09:10 AM
Denis Azabagic from Chicago, IL

...having played and recorded David's music I had a great pleasure to discover his music language. Highly imaginative, master of compositional craft...he would be great for this project.

Jun. 23 2010 01:12 AM
Shafer Mahoney from Brooklyn

I enjoyed David's compositions very much! I especially like the push and pull between strings and guitar in "Orpheus" and the flighty, playfully repeated figures in "Trittico"—these are both clear musical ideas.

What about a guitar concerto with Orpheus?

Jun. 22 2010 05:42 PM
John Haag from New York

I thoroughly enjoyed David Leisner's Vision of Orpheus. It is a haunting work that beautifully captures the myth.

Jun. 22 2010 12:10 PM
Eleanor eisenmenger from Santa Fe, New Mexico

My company commissioned Vision of Orpheus, and we really love this work. David Leisner has emerged from performer to composer/performer in a most interesting, artistic way, and we always look forward to hearing his new works.

Jun. 21 2010 11:19 PM
Jack Sanders from Los Angeles

A very engaging work, imaginative, and evocative - what I have come to expect from Mr. Leisner's pen. Congratulations!

Jun. 21 2010 11:14 PM
elissa ely from belmont ma

I saw it all in my mind's eyes. I love the way these pieces combine playful and poignant. I would hear more in a heartbeat.

Jun. 21 2010 08:58 PM
Daniel Lippel from NYC

I love the texture in Vision of Orpheus, very evocative and haunting.

great project btw, kudos to Orpheus!

Jun. 21 2010 03:58 PM
Rebecca Allan

I heard this work performed live and would like to comment that Mr. Leisner's compositions always take into account the particular and subtle musical relationships within each ensemble, informed by his special interest in painting and other visual art forms. Should he receive this commission, I am convinced that he would write with specific awareness of the individual musicians within the orchestra.

Jun. 21 2010 03:55 PM
Robin Heald from Ashland, OR

Visions of Orpheus is a daring piece juxtaposing the magnetic pull of the quartet "pod" against the clear, bright, optimism of the solo guitar. Trittico takes one on a childhood journey of exploration. It is playful and powerful. Both pieces show phenomenal imagination and superb craftsmanship.

Jun. 21 2010 09:43 AM
Jay Sandvos from Boston, MA

I really liked both pieces a lot--I thought they were nicely balanced and emotionally engaging. I would love to hear more.


Jun. 21 2010 08:52 AM
barbara vignudelli from paris

Io ho cantato dei pezzi di questo autore/chitarrista e li trovo veramente belli e ben scritti
In bocca al lupo David!!!!!!!

Jun. 21 2010 04:20 AM
Dr. Scott Giles from Sacramento, CA

Both of these works are well done and obviously by someone who is of professional quality but neither are terribly original nor anything I would buy an album of. This isn't to say they stink! Nothing of the sort. It's just that there is nothing here I'd want to listen to twice.

Jun. 21 2010 01:13 AM
Jonny from Bronx. NY

I truly love David Lesiner's composition.


Jonny Johansson

Jun. 21 2010 12:23 AM
Martin Fogel from Tokyo

Artist David Leisner strikes you as a distiguished musician & composer, who re-connects with the tradition of those times when virtuosi were also master composers. He carries on the fine legacy of the last century of American art music into the 21st-century. I am eagerly awaiting more works for orchestra and large ensembles by Mr Leisner; is there any Guitar Concerto on the horizon?

Jun. 20 2010 08:47 PM
Harris Becker from Connecticut

The Vision of Orpheus takes us to a dark mysterious and mystical world that is pulling at us and trying to draw us in. This world is juxtaposed with a sweet folk-like tune just going on its way. Almost oblivious but every now the sweet tune stops has a glance at the dark world and continues on its way. These two seemingly opposed worlds are moving along at the same time side by side. A successful musical composition like this is hard to achieve. This piece shows much ingenuity, wonderful craftsmanship and a great creative musical imagination by the composer, David Leisner.

Jun. 20 2010 07:59 PM
Jason Vieaux

Vision of Orpheus is a wonderful piece; I'm hoping to performing this work myself someday. It's not easy to write substantial, intelligent, deeply emotional music that maintains its appeal to a wide range of listeners. David's first-rate!

Jun. 20 2010 07:12 PM
José Manuel Dapena from Spain

I think David Leisner is a good composer. The vision remember me sad or dark music but the guitar ideas are beautiful.
I like specially the 3rd movement of his solo sonata for guitar.

Jun. 20 2010 06:56 PM
Henry Lyman from Northampton, MA

“Trittico” is delightful and exploratory. It makes me want to dance down the street.

Jun. 20 2010 05:39 PM
Henry Lyman from Northampton, MA

I was deeply affected by “Vision of Orpheus” when I first heard it and by this final movement in particular. On hearing it again I am struck by the assertion of the human within the inhuman; fragile human song as opposed to the sound of eternal chaos. What is perhaps most challenging here is to make the latter agreeable while still preserving its horror, and to interweave it with the former in a way that contrasts but does not offend. Leisner achieves both.

Jun. 20 2010 05:35 PM
Ron Purcell from Sherman Oaks, CA

I am reminded of the drawing appearing in one of the first Vihuela books by Luis Milan, 1535 - Orpheus sitting under a tree with the town burning behind him. The use of strings reflect this burning sensation as Orpheus tries his best to sooth his love for Eurydice. The musical description is pointed in the right direction and the use of the instruments is flawless.

Jun. 20 2010 02:17 PM
Michael Black from Scotland

The piece 'Visions of Orpheus' is absolutely wonderful. David Leisner has, with a skilled blend of dissonance and tonality, captured, and indeed conveyed, the tragedy of the promise of 'blue-sky happiness' ebbing away.

Inspired and original.

Jun. 20 2010 02:00 PM
Connie Hayes from Rockland, Maine

As I listen to Trittico I love the way it sneaks up on me as I sense its patterns being revealed. It offers me complexity and joyfulness which hops into bubbling and flowing events. I like the suggestion of peeking, flouncing and its light touch without being too sweet.

Jun. 20 2010 11:21 AM
Carole Farley from New York City

David Leisner has a vivid and powerful voice as he writes for all different combinations of instruments. His work "Vision of Orpheus" is a wonderful voyage which immediately grips one as an importatnt soundworld... I was enthralled from start to finish. I am fascinated already by his songs and hope to be able to perform them very soon. He should definitely do more writing for strings, as this medium suits his imaginative gifts--a commission for Oprheus would be just the vehicle. Bravo David!

Jun. 20 2010 08:43 AM
Paul Haas

I love both of these pieces. David writes with such an economy of means, and he has mastered the art of clothing profundity in simplicity. Bravo! I only hope I get to hear something by him for chamber orchestra...

Jun. 20 2010 08:17 AM
Timothy Kain

"Vision of Orpheus" is a beautifully evocative piece by a composer of great skill and imagination - a haunting, simultaneous combination of the dissonantly troubled modern with the simple, centred tonality of a more self-assured bygone age to create a riveting emotional effect. Bravo David! Your music goes directly to one's feelings in a way that not enough contemporary composers manage and audiences everywhere crave.

Jun. 20 2010 07:23 AM
Reinbert Evers from Münster

nothing special, quite good composed, but not impressive, no real language, no imagination

Jun. 20 2010 01:22 AM
José Serebrier from New York

Besides "Vision of Orpheus" I have heard manysongs by David Leisner, and I know he has a distinct, original voice. He should be much better known, because he has something personal to say, and a unique talent for orchestration. He writes the kind of music that appeals to both musicians and the audiences alike.

Jun. 19 2010 11:10 PM
Glenn Dicterow from NYC

Loved Leisner's "Trittico".
Very original and beautifully written for both instruments.
Bravo David.

Jun. 19 2010 10:35 PM
Eric Aho from Helsinki

David Leisner excells at establishing new realities from contrasts of light and dark with the familiar and the unknown. The new piece "Vision of Orpheus," as magnificent as any drawing by Goya, suspends this listener in a new volume of sound rich with imaginative color and phenomenological space.

Jun. 19 2010 09:55 PM
Jim Tosone from New Jersey

Trittico is evocative in its imagery. I feel like I am in an Argentinian cafe, with a mixture of French Impressionist melodies and harmonies blending with tango rhythms. With Leisner, there is always something new under the sun.

Jun. 19 2010 09:45 PM
J Sarah M

David Leisner's compositions always manage to fuse a clear representation of his inspiration with subtleties and variations that transport us on a textured journey of discovery. I would love to hear a new compostion for chamber orchestra by this exceptional musician/composer.

Jun. 19 2010 09:44 PM
Jim Tosone from New Jersey

Maintains a delicate balance between haunting and comforting. The contrasting timbres of the string quartet and the guitar leaves one emotionally torn between two worlds. Nuanced writing in all elements of composition.

Jun. 19 2010 09:33 PM
Sato Moughalian from New York City

I've always loved the music of David Leisner which I find to be incredibly well written as well as packing a powerful visceral punch. I would love to hear a composition of his for chamber orchestra. I think he combines an exceptional original voice with a deep knowledge of how to write for instruments, a suprisingly unusual combination.

Jun. 19 2010 09:13 PM
constance dejong

"Trittico" for me was a lively, positive, lyrical, richly layered work. I loved it.

Jun. 19 2010 09:09 PM
constance dejong

I listened to the work "Vision of Orpheus" without reading the description and was delighted that what I heard came very close to what inspired this work. As I listened I understood two forces following each other, joining and departing, building and dissolving. The introduction of a third party was utterly unexpected and at first strange, then interesting then fantastic. I could not predict anything in this piece. It was riveting and provocative. This work feels fresh, intelligent and forward moving.

Jun. 19 2010 09:06 PM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

The WQXR e-newsletter. Show highlights, links to music news, on-demand concerts, events from The Greene Space and more.

Follow WQXR