David Leisner Favorites (CD Review)

David Leisner

Favorites

Azica ACD 71268

David Leisner’s latest solo recital disc, Favorites, is a consistently enjoyable program of repertory favorites and lesser known short works for classical guitar. Most imposing is his arrangement of J.S. Bach’s Violin Chaconne in D-minor. Written in the wake of the passing of Bach’s first wife, it is a funeral ode, albeit a non-liturgical one, like few others. Leisner wrings considerable poignancy from its wrenching harmonic passages and its long-breathed melodies: the latter are often filled with descending minor seconds, an affect that in the  rhetorical terms of the 18th century signified falling tears. However, the guitarist wisely avoids maudlin tempi or syrupy rubati, instead allowing the piece to unfold at a gradual but constant pace; making for a dignified rather than overly sentimental rendering. He takes a similar approach to Benjamin Britten’s Nocturnal, a set of variations on a theme by John Dowland.

Leisner is also impressive in his transcription of Nicolo Paganini’s Grand Sonata, delivering a crisply fleet-fingered rendition that favors clarity and bright articulation to the flashily mercurial (but sloppy) showiness of some other interpreters. He also champions several pieces by composer-guitarist Alexander Ivanov-Kramskoi (1912-1973), a creator of conservative but idiomatic and often technically demanding pieces for classical guitar. Ivanov-Kramskoi isn’t nearly as well known to Western audiences as he should be, and pieces like “Melancholy Waltz” and “Song Without Words” are considerably charming. Overall, Favorites provides a new context for familiar pieces – “old friends” – and contains several pleasing surprises. Recommended.

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