David Leisner, one of the most illustrious American guitarists, was presented by Guitar Plus at Symphony Space on the evening of September 12, 2014. Joined by his friends Tara O’Connor, flute and Philippe Quint, violin, it was titled “Sonic Stories,” perhaps a bit heavy in its divertissements.
Opening with a quaint period transcription of Rossini’s La Gazza Ladra Overture for the three musicians, any uncertainty in regards to direction and overplaying were dispelled in Ned Rorem’s duo for flute and guitar Romeo and Juliet; so transparent at times to be thin. Ms. O’Connor played as lovingly as she was dressed. In the other duo, Osvaldo Golijov’s Fish Tale, one might wish for a more colorful poisson, or a bigger tank. Concluding with a lively reading of Piazzolla’s Histoire du Tango with the violin, these four movements can wear out their welcome. Mr. Quint played with dash, his style splashy as his shoes were shiny.
Mr. Leisner was featured as a collaborator, superb to a fault, perhaps. It brought back memories of his all-Britten program last autumn in the same hall with tenor Rufus Miller, which won my vote as the most moving and memorable recital of the season. These artists drenched us in the glorious fruits of tenderness, loss and sorrow intrinsic to this music. Their Sally Gardens encore was beyond the sphere of comparison. Their efforts did not have the intimacy of an embrace, nor a handshake; but a hand on the shoulder with a gaze into each others’ eyes as if into a mirror.
Ms. O’Connor and Mr. Quint did not always share in the guitarist’s debonair elegance, nor in his old world high-towering love of comrades kind of warmth.
We are lucky to have David Leisner ensconced in Manhattan. Last June at the Barge he gave the third NYC performance of David Del Tredici’s Facts of Life. If this 40 minute unidiomatic work in a conservative language does not fit this solo guitarist’s hands like a glove quite yet; rest assured, he is the worthy champion, dedicatee and commissioner. This work might benefit from some editing. The many olés! enthusiastically shouted by the performer at the end of the suite could be pruned, or exclaimed by an optional dancer, or by the audience roused and cued by his partner!
David Leisner next plays in Manhattan at March 28th at the 92nd Street Y. Highly recommended.