Solo Guitar

Labyrinths (16'), 2007 - five movements, each a musical illumination of a moment in time. Repetition and slow
evolution of the materials create a subtle activity within an environment of seeming stasis. The movement titles are:
Shimmer, Shadow, Shiver, Shatter and Shelter - Merion Music/Theodore Presser Co.

Disturbed, a Lullaby (5'), 2006 - a spacious, minimalistic, subtly contrapuntal opening develops into increasingly
frenzied activity and then slowly returns to the atmosphere of the beginning. Commissioned by guitarist Aaron Larget-
Caplan - Merion Music/Theodore Presser Co.

Nel Mezzo: Sonata (20’), 1998 - a dramatic, powerful, major work in 3 movements, in a chromatically tonal
language. Leisner's most important solo guitar work to date - Merion Music/Theodore Presser Co.  
Listen to excerpt

Freedom Fantasies (19’), 1992 - 3 fantasy-variations, each based on an African-American spiritual (“Go Down,
Moses”, “Sometimes I feel like a motherless child”, “Oh, Freedom”), in a Blues-centered harmonic language -
Dobermann-Yppan

Four Pieces (15’), 1979, 1986 - four unrelated pieces that may be played together or separately: Prelude, Episode,
Ritual and Dance, in a modal, sometimes chromatic style - Merion Music/Theodore Presser Co.

“Billy Boy” Variations (4’), 1983 - a set of relatively easy variations on the popular Appalachian folk song - Merion
Music/Theodore Presser Co.

Passacaglia and Toccata (6’), 1982 - chromatic; the passacaglia is a dark piece, and the toccata is a rousing homage
to Ginastera - Merion Music/Theodore Presser Co.


Chamber Music with Guitar

Twilight Streams (16') for cello and guitar, 2012 - This five-movement work, written for cellist Zuill Bailey, was
inspired by a short quote from an interview with painter Bill Jensen:  "A very important concept in Chinese paintings is
emptiness and fullness.  With my work I don't know if darkness is empty or lightness is empty.  It could also be that
either darkness or lightness is full, because in Chinese philosophy, emptiness is not what we think of as emptiness.  It
is the place where everything will be going and then will be reborn."  The five movements are titled "empty dark", "full
dark", "empty light", full light", and "adrift at twilight".  Moderate difficulty - Manuscript, to be published by Merion
Music/Theodore Presser Co.

Away (11') for flute and guitar, 2008 - The folk tune, "Shenandoah" provides the material for this piece, commissioned
by the Diller-Quaile School of Music for the Arc Duo.  Small fragments of the tune are each explored obsessively, to
hypnotic effect.  While the music never abandons the tonal language of the song, there is, instead of harmonic
conflict, more rhythmic conflict.  It is all set in the context of a journey along a river, with episodes evoking currents,
a rolling river, rapids, waterfall, calming waters, canyon echoes and still waters.  Moderate difficulty - Manuscript, to
be published by Merion Music/Theodore Presser Co.

Acrobats (13') for flute and guitar, 2002 - written for guitarist Luiz Mantovani, this intense 3-movement piece is
inspired by a moving short story by Nathan Englander from his collection, For the Relief of Unbearable Urges, about a
group of Hasidic Jews in World War II who make the miraculous mistake of boarding a train full of circus performers
instead of one bound for the concentration camps. The music is tonal, but chromatic, energetic, wailing and soulful,
with a quote from a Yiddish folk song towards the end and woven into the music elsewhere. Moderate difficulty -
Dobermann-Yppan  
Listen to excerpt

Vision of Orpheus (17') for guitar and string quartet, 2000 - commissioned by Twentieth Century Unlimited in Santa
Fe, this dramatic 5-movement work was given a standing ovation at its premiere with Leisner and the St. Lawrence
String Quartet. Based on the Orpheus myth and a painting by Mark Spencer, the piece deals with Orpheus' plea to the
gods of the underworld, their deliberation and decision to release Euridice, and the ultimate despair of Orpheus in the
end as he loses her. The work is in a tonal chromatic language, at times lyrical or rhythmically incisive or eerie and
disturbing, as at the end. Interesting, challenging parts for all instruments - Merion Music/Theodore Presser Co.

Listen to excerpt
 

El Coco (The Bogeyman) (3') for flute and guitar, 1999 - part of Red Cedar Chamber Music's commission of 7
composers for their "Artistic Celebration for the 21st Century" project, this compact work is a passacaglia and was
inspired by one of Francisco Goya's prints in the "Los Caprichos" series, moderate difficulty - Merion Music/Theodore
Presser Co.  
Listen to excerpt

Roaming (8’) for 3 guitars, 1994 - a fun piece, based on the famous American folk tune, “Red River Valley”, with a
“drunken” passage toward the end, moderate difficulty - Dobermann-Yppan

The Cat that Walked by Himself (22’) for 4 guitars, 1988 - 11 short movements use quotes from the Rudyard
Kipling children’s story to inspire a passacaglia,a fugue, a quodlibet, and other intensely lyrical and rhythmic passages,
moderate-difficult - Merion Music/Theodore Presser Co.  
Listen to excerpt

Mirage (6’) for two guitars, 1987 - a simple, but passionate contrapuntal section opens the work, followed by a
joyful, dancey illusion,completed by the return of the opening counterpoint with soured chromaticism - Merion
Music/Theodore Presser Co.

Extremes (13’) for flute, clarinet and guitar, 1987 - in 2 movements, the first, “Introverted”, is in a pensive, Bartokian
mood, while the second, “Extroverted”, uses the language of folk, rock and jazz - Doberman-Yppan

Trittico (12’), for flute, cello and guitar, 1985 - the large, brooding middle movement is surrounded by a somewhat
Minimalist first movement and a lively, lyrical Rondo last movement - Doberman-Yppan

Nostalgia (5’), for violin/flute and guitar, 1985 - a long-lined chromatic lyricism, with solos for both the violin (or
flute) and the guitar - Merion Music/Theodore Presser Co.

Sonata (16’) for violin and guitar, 1985 - a 3-movement work of large, Brahmsian proportions and weight, in a
chromatic, tonal idiom - Merion Music/Theodore Presser Co.

Three Moons (17’) for cello and guitar, 1984 - originally conceived for dance, this 3-movement piece begins with a
fugue, continues with a solo movement for cello (offset by solos for the guitar in the outer movements) and ends with
a rollicking, Minimalist third movement - Merion Music/Theodore Presser Co.

Dances in the Madhouse (12’) for violin/flute and guitar, 1982 - now considered a classic of the repertoire, a dance
suite with Tango Solitaire, Waltz for the Old Folks, Ballad for the Lonely and Samba!, inspired by a lithograph by early
20th-century American George Bellows, depicting a social dance in an insane asylum - Merion Music/Theodore
Presser Co.


Voice and Guitar

West Wind (16'), tenor, 2011 - Mary Oliver poems about love amidst nature.  Written for tenor William Ferguson.
Six songs, in a melding of diatonic and chromatic styles, sometimes playful, sometimes darkly intense, sometimes
mystical, sometimes meditative.  Guitar part of medium difficulty. - Manuscript, to be published by Merion Music/
Theodore Presser Co.

1. Come with me
2. Row for your life
3. Dark is as dark does
4. Wild needle
5. Night birds
6. West wind

Three James Tate Songs (10'), medium or high voice, 2007 - written for Patrick Mason, baritone, and David
Starobin, guitar, these are settings of texts by one of the great living American poets, James Tate, whose surrealistic
work can be hilarious or frightening or both at the same time. The music is repetitive, obsessive, hypnotic. Guitar part
of medium difficulty - Merion Music/Theodore Presser Co.

1. I Can't Speak for the Wind
2. Never Again the Same
3. From an Island

Heaven's River (10'), soprano, 1991 - 3 profoundly spiritual poems by the great Hindu writer Rabindranath Tagore,
set in a mystical and lyrical style, with a challenging guitar part - Dobermann-Yppan

1. The Boat
2. Light
3. To the Stream

Five Songs of Devotion (16'), medium voice, 1989 - written for Hazel Ketchum to sing and play at the same time,
these are written in a quasi-folk style, straddling the border between art song and pop song. The texts are drawn from
5 different religious traditions (Jewish, American Indian, Taoist, Christian and Hindu) -Columbia Music

1. The Lord is My Shepherd
2. Song of the Sky Loom
3. The Breath of Nature
4. Saint Clare
5. Silent Steps

Confiding (30'), high voice, 1985-86 - 10 poems by women, mostly Emily Dickinson and Emily Bronte, that trace the
rise and fall of an intimate relationship and then turn to non-human elements (the guitar, imagination, God) for
confiding. Guitar part of medium difficulty - Merion Music/Theodore Presser Co.
Listen to excerpt

1. Savior! I've no one else to tell
2. Ample make this Bed
3. Wild Nights
4. Signal
5. Star-crossed
6. The Lady to her Guitar
7. Love and Friendship
8. To Imagination
9. Faith
10. This is my letter to the World

Outdoor Shadows (1l'), high voice, 1985 - 5 poems by the great and under-recognized American 20th-century poet,
Robert Francis, whose work is most often about nature and naturalness, beauty and simplicity - Merion
Music/Theodore Presser Co.

1. Slow
2. Homeward
3. Yes, What?
4. Seagulls
5. Sing a Song of Juniper

Four Yiddish Songs (12’), medium (or high) voice, 1983 - stylized art-song arrangements of 4 popular Yiddish folk
songs - Dobermann-Yppan

1. Rozhinkes mit Mandlen
2. Tumbalalaika
3. Sha! Shtil!
4. Der Rebe Elimelech

Simple Songs (7'), medium voice, 1982 - written for Sanford Sylvan, these are 6 poems of Emily Dickinson in
settings that are sometimes popular-music-inspired, sometimes bitonal, always intense. The guitar part has some
difficult passages and requires an advanced player - AMP/G. Schirmer Music Publishers

1. Exultation
2. Beauty
3. Madness
4. Letter
5. Humility
6. Simplicity


Voice and Piano

Confiding (30'), high voice (also available for medium), 1985-86 - 10 poems by women, mostly Emily Dickinson and
Emily Bronte, that trace the rise and fall of an intimate relationship and then turn to non-human elements (the guitar,
imagination, God) for confiding - Merion Music/Theodore Presser Co.  
Listen to excerpt

1. Savior! I've no one else to tell
2. Ample make this Bed
3. Wild Nights
4. Signal
5. Star-crossed
6. The Lady to her Guitar
7. Love and Friendship
8. To Imagination
9. Faith
10. This is my letter to the World

"O Love is the Crooked Thing" (15'), medium or low voice, 1980 - 5 poems by William Butler Yeats set in a folk-
song idiom that sometimes veers close to Benjamin Britten - Merion Music/Theodore Presser Co.
Listen to excerpt

1 Down by the Salley Gardens
2: The Two Trees
3. A Drinking Song
4. The Wild Swans at Coole
5. Brown Penny

To Sleep (9'), medium voice (also available for low), 1994 - 3 Elizabeth Bishop poems on the theme of sleep, one
lighthearted, one dark and dramatic, and the last quietly passionate - Merion Music/Theodore Presser Co.
Listen to
excerpt

1. Sleeping on the Ceiling
2. The Unbeliever
3. Sonnet

Chance Awakenings (9'), soprano, 2003 - Commissioned for the year-long musical celebration of poet William
Meredith's 85th birthday, these 3 songs set texts by Meredith and his life partner, Richard Harteis. The outer two
Meredith songs present simple musical materials that become rhythmically and texturally complex with layering, while
the middle Harteis song evokes a scene of a lazy afternoon nap which provides relief to a stressful time - Manuscript,
to be published by Merion Music/Theodore Presser Co.

1. A Major Work
2. Architecture of an Afternoon Nap
3. The Fear of Beasts

Fidelity (22'), tenor (or soprano) and baritone, 1996 - 8 poems by 6 poets on the theme of a long-term, monogamous
gay relationship, from beginning doubts through romantic attractions and struggles to enduring love. Its original setting
is for two males, but may also be performed in a heterosexual version. The poets are May Swensen, Walt Whitman,
Kenneth Patchen, William Meredith, Wendell Berry and Leslie Marmon Silko - Merion Music/Theodore Presser Co.  
Listen to excerpt

1. Our Forward Shadows
2. Are you the new person drawn toward me?
3. Moon, Sun, Sleep, Birds, Live
4. O My Love the Pretty Towns
5. Tree Marriage
6. Sometimes he contemplates adultery
7. Anniversary Song
8. Lullaby


Voice and instrument

Das Wunderbare Wesen (The Miraculous Essence) (10'), baritone and cello, 2011 - Commissioned by Eleanor
Eisenmenger at the request of baritone Wolfgang Holzmair, this is a set of five settings of Lao Tsu's Tao te Ching, in
the German translation of Richard Wilhelm, one of the earliest and most understanding translations of this Chinese
text.  The songs epitomize the mystical spirituality of Taoism.  In a mix of chromatic and diatonic styles, the music
evolves out of structures established in the cello part, echoed by the harmonic structures, which spiral away from the
center - Merion Music/Theodore Presser Co.

Solo instrument

Labyrinths II (15') for solo piano, 2009 - Written for British pianist, Colin Stone, these five movements each use a
Bach quote or pseudo-quote as a springboard for musical exploration of subtle and gradual evolution of rhythm,
harmony, sonority and phrasing.  The new melodic material of the last movement is surrounded by a "foggy mist" of
musical memories of the previous four movements.  The movement titles combine to form a little poem:
                                                      bounce
                                                      into the dark:
                                                      almost still, lost
                                                      in memory                 
Merion Music/Theodore Presser Co.

Vapors (9') for solo viola, 2008-9 - Using the early numbers of the Fibonacci Series to determine metres, as well as
number and length of notes, Leisner created two parallel musical events in the first movement, "Falling".  One is a
sequence of held single notes (occasionally becoming a double-stop) that starts high in harmonics and slowly
descends.  The other is a series of melodic phrases that begin as fragments and then expand and contract, rise and
fall.  They alternate as separate entities in the beginning and then, at various times in the piece, meld together.  The
second movement, "Floating", develops in a similar way, but in a much faster context.  Vapors was composed in
2008-9, dedicated to the visual artist, Constance DeJong, and written for violists Hsin-Yun Huang and Paul Neubauer -
Manuscript, to be published by Merion Music/Theodore Presser Co.


Chamber Music

Bloom (9') for string quartet, 2005 - A very gentle, slowly unfolding minimalist work that evokes an ongoing ether of
sound, out of which emerges, towards the end, a living organism, as embodied by a melodic violin solo that sings,
rises and dies - Merion Music/Theodore Presser Co.  
Listen to excerpt

A Timeless Procession (9') for baritone and string quartet, 2004 - Commissioned by Eleanor Eisenmenger for the
Austrian baritone, Wolfgang Holzmair, this is a musical setting of the delightfully surreal poem, "The Elephants Pass
Carnegie Hall" by the little-known 20th-century American poet, Rosemary Thomas. The single-movement work passes
through different evocations of time - past, present, slow motion, frozen time - as the baritone sings the poem's
narrative journey - Merion Music/Theodore Presser Co
.

Of Darkness and Light (10') for tenor, violin, oboe and piano, 2002 - 5 poems by Wendell Berry about darkness and
light, written in the Vietnam era and which have an equal resonance with our own post-9/11 malaise, are set to music
in a diatonic tonal language which passes from thoughtfulness to passion to anxiety and ends in beauty - Manuscript,
to be published by Merion Music/Theodore Presser Co.

Battlefield Requiem (15’) for solo cello and percussion quartet, 1995 - a requiem mass for instruments, instead of
voices, and an imagined scene on a battlefield, with the first movement diepicting a gathering of troops wth their
collective prayers and hopes and fears, the second movement a scene of combat, the third (for solo cello) a survivor’s
lament, and the last is a poetic leap into the atmosphere in the aftermath - Manuscript, to be published by Merion
Music/Theodore Presser Co.  
Listen to excerpt

Ad majorem Dei gloriam (12’) for brass quintet (2 Bb tpt., hn., trb., tb.), 1992 - commissioned by the Jesuit-run
Fairfield University for its 50th anniversary, this chromatically tonal 4-movement work begins with a brief fugue called
“Prayer”, which provides the thematic basis for the three other movements - a fanfare, an innocent pastorale and the
tempestuous finale, all of which evoke aspects of the Divine Being - Merion Music/Theodore Presser Co.  
Listen to
excerpt

On Jazz Terrain (13’) for flute, Bb clarinet, alto saxophone and piano, 1990 - 3 movements in a jazz language with a
French accent: Jasper, Jasmine and Jazzed a Few Minutes - Merion Music/Theodore Presser Co.  
Listen to excerpt

Candles in Mecca (23’) for violin, cello and piano, 1988 - inspired by quotes from Athol Fugard’s play “The Road to
Mecca”, the first movement is a set of variations,the second movement is lyrical, passionate and painful, and the last
movement is an exciting display of rhythm and virtuosity - Manuscript, to be published by Merion Music/Theodore
Presser Co.
 Listen to excerpt


Orchestra

Embrace of Peace (14’) for orchestra (2222 4221 1perc str), 1991 - with American painter George Tooker’s painting
as its source, this 1-movement tone-poem is in 3 sections, the first is a slow reconciliation from great distances and
differences, from very high and very low to a big unison F, followed by a tentative and increasingly warm, lyrical
embrace, and finished with a rousing and, finally, triumphant finale (including a trio for flute, viola and tuba along the
way) - Merion Music/Theodore Presser Co.  
Listen to excerpt

Dances in the Madhouse (13’) for orchestra (2222 2200 1perc str), 1982, arranged for orchestra, 1989 - a dance
suite with a Tango Solitaire, Waltz for the Old Folks, Ballad for the Lonely, and Samba!, inspired by a lithograph by
the early 20th-century American George Bellows, depicting a social dance in an insane asylum - Merion
Music/Theodore Presser Co.

Clouds and Waves (Rabindranath Tagore) (6’) for young people’s chorus and young people’s string orchestra, 1993 -
commissioned by the Diller-Quaile School of Music in New York, this brief, tonal work was designed for players and
singers aged 7-14, based on a lovely little poem by the great Hindu poet Tagore about the tempting adventures that can
lure one away from home and the inevitable and necessary return - Manuscript, to be published by Merion
Music/Theodore Presser Co.


Guitar Editions

David Leisner was one of the first contemporary advocates for the works of J.K. Mertz (1806-1856). His published
editions of Mertz's solo guitar music brought much-needed attention to this unjustly neglected composer. He has also
made carefully considered arrangments of two well-known works by J.S. Bach, as well as editions of works by Virgil
Thompson and Richard Winslow, with whom he worked closely
.

Johann Kaspar Mertz
Elegy
Kindermärchen
Liebeslied
Romanze
Polacca
Tarantelle
Fantaisie Hongroise

J.S. Bach
Partita, BWV 1013 (originally for unaccompanied flute)
Suite No. 3, BWV 1009 (originally for cello)

Virgil Thomson
Two-Part Inventions
What Is It? (voice and gt.)

Richard Winslow
Variations on a Tune of Stephen Foster

All of these editions are published by Merion Music/Theodore Presser Co.


Merion Music/Theodore Presser Co.
588 North Gulph Road
King of Prussia, PA 19406  USA
Phone: 610-592-1222 Fax: 610-592-1229
Website: http://www.presser.com

Les Editions Doberman-Yppan
c.p. 2021
Saint-Nicolas (Quebec) Canada G7A 4X5
Fax: 418-836-3645
E-mail: doberman.yppan@videotron.ca
Website: http://www.dobermaneditions.com

AMP/G.Schirmer Music Publishers
257 Park Ave. South
New York, NY 10010
Phone 212 254-2100 Fax 212 254-2013

Columbia Music Co.: distributed by Theodore Presser Co.

photo by Kate Raudenbush
Website content © David Leisner 2012.  All rights reserved.  
david leisner
guitarist and composer
Compositions
and Editions
See bottom of page for publisher
address and contact information