An Attempted Analysis of a Musical Phenomenon – Part 1
Valentina Babor, the young German pianist, says of David Garrett that he is “exceptional as a musician and as a person.” – She knows him. I don’t. The purpose of this essay is to explore her statement further.
By way of introduction, let me say that in fifty years I have never once put anyone’s poster on my wall and have never sought an autograph; that being a fan is not in my nature and becoming a groupie out of the question. The stars in the musical skies of my youth were John Lennon, Mick Jagger, Robert Plant, Sting, Peter Gabriel and Bob Marley – all alive and well. I loved their music and felt their appeal, understood why girls screamed or swooned – but didn’t.
Never having been a moth to anyone’s flame, how come I’m up late these nights, watching scores of YouTube clips of David Garrett and reading pages of interviews? Those who do this, I’ve discovered, identify themselves collectively as ‘DG Insomniacs’ and are, I suppose, a growing group. I never responded to the discovery of a musician with such interest before, though I did research a fair few in my time. (Note: My great favourite is Mozart. He is the one I know – and love – best, and nothing will change that. Be assured, if there were live recordings of him on YouTube, I’d be watching those.)
I only became aware of David Garrett’s existence in the autumn of 2015. Zapping lazily through the channels one night, I spied him on a German talk show where he was promoting his new album and was instantly mesmerized: Who is that? With this question began my quest to explore the nature of this musician. For what I had heard was thrilling, what I had seen delightful – and both to such an unusual degree that it could not be ignored.
Through scores of interviews, both written and recorded, a picture began to form of David Garrett’s story. I listened carefully to his words; and though my ears were keenly prepared to find them, there were never any wrong notes on his part, though there were some among the interviewers. I mean, for instance, that David-Beckham-of-the-Violin tag. Puh-leeeze, really? Just imagine that other David kicking a violin about … So what if they share a name, good looks and fame. It remains a skewed analogy, not worth repeating.
But, musicianship and good looks aside, what struck me instantly was what an unbelievably nice guy this David is. Not a trace to be found of meanness, of ignorance, conceit or arrogance. Instead, a loving nature of such strong and immediate appeal that the impact is best described by quoting an often repeated fan comment: “He takes my breath away.” – This statement is repeated in many languages and with slight variations throughout the comment sections below his YouTube material.
What would David Garrett be without his violin? – Just an extraordinarily good-looking man. And what would he be without his looks? – Just an exceptional musician. But he, favoured by fortune, is both. He enchants our eyes as well as our ears, and through them our hearts. And, as if that were not enough and this combination of blessings not more than any mortal could hope for, he also has such personal charm: a beguiling mixture of kindness, sensitivity and tact, of diffidence, modesty and politeness. These qualities (uncommon and unexpected in celebrities) expose one to a riptide of admiration, of adoration. It is even more endearing that David himself seems quite unaware of his effect and – whenever it is mentioned – shrugs with embarrassment and attaches little importance to it.
I’m sure that those who know David personally could complement this list with a few less noble characteristics. He is very human, after all, and himself has named obstinacy, hardheadedness and impatience as his less agreeable traits. These, however, cannot be found in the YouTube material my research is limited to.
But wait … there is more! On insomniac trawls through the abundant video material I successively discovered other delightful qualities: David Garrett has a quick-witted sense of humour and the comical talent of a true entertainer. He expresses a lively intelligence with a philosophical bent that makes him look at life in a way that, at times, seems wise beyond his years. What he has to say about his background, his life and his projects is actually interesting. He radiates positive energy, has mastered the difficult art of self-discipline and solved the conundrum of how duty and freedom are related. Being alone does not frighten him, and he credibly displays a complete lack of desperation where female companionship is concerned. The first, great love of his life is music, after all, and he will never lose that.
So, yes – all of these findings show that Valentina Babor’s assessment is spot-on: David Garrett is indeed exceptionally exceptional. Fan comment: “Amazing person! Why are there so few people like him in this world?”