David Leisner Charms with New Album

Seldom has a classical album been more appropriately named. “Charms to Soothe” delivers on its promise. Guitarist David Leisner presents a program of favorite 19th-century guitar works. And without exception, they are a delight. The program mixes music by familiar composers and lesser-known virtuosi. 

Touring instrumental virtuosi of the 1800s were often composers. They primarily wrote music for themselves to play in concert. They also wrote instructional guides to further the artistry of their instruments. Fernando Sor and Mauro Giuliani were two such artists. And their music has remained in the guitar repertoire since it was introduced. 

Leisner presents a few composers whose reputations didn’t survive. Johann Kaspar Mertz was a contemporary of Giuliani. He toured mostly in Eastern Europe and Russia. Merz’ wife was a concert pianist, and he may have drawn inspiration from the music she played. Included here are two selections from Bardenklänge, Op. 13. One is titled “Lied Ohne Worte,” which suggests at least a nod to Mendelssohn.

Giulio Regondi was a Swiss guitarist who spent most of his life in London. His Études for guitar are perhaps his best-known pieces. And while they do have their challenges, they’re also enjoyable to listen to. Another London-based guitarist was Leonard Schulz. Most of his music has been lost, but his 12 Studies, Op. 40 survive. They’re well-crafted and deceptively complex works. 

All the selections are favorites of Leisner. His talent could easily carry him through the challenges of these works. But there’s more going on here. Leisner shows his affection for this music in his playing. The melodies do more than sing, they emote. These are intimate performances. And ones that both charm and engage (well, at least they did for me). 

Well-recorded, and superbly performed. If you’d like to spend time with a friend sharing some of his favorite music get this release. It does indeed have charms to soothe.

Charms to Soothe: 19th Century Music for Guitar
David Leisner, guitar
Azica Records ACD-71368

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