The Solo Traveller's View

David Garrett and the Violin


An attempted Analysis of a Musical Phenomenon – Part 4

On YouTube, a private video recording gives us a glimpse of little David as he plays his first violin. Did you see the look of fierce concentration on his face? Did you notice his attitude of let me show you what I can do? There is such determination in his look, and even at that tender age his whole manner shows that one day he is going to master this instrument.

71 Spiegel TV Porträt

Already there is a remarkable difference to other young children. Whereas their instrument is usually a strange entity and something they have to come to terms with across a gulf of separateness that often feels overwhelming, little David mentally embraces the violin. The movements of his bow are sweeping and confident, he knows how to produce a good sound, he is on pitch; no strangled cats here. Observing his father and brother as they play, he instinctively grasps what it is to be a violinist: what it should feel like, sound like, and look like. And already his temperament is that of a soloist. To achieve the matching skills will be the work of years, but the potential is undeniable.

67 Klein David

Gradually he traverses the realm of fractions as his instrument grows with him, from that first, tiny 1/16 violin that looks like a toy, through the 1/8 and 1/4 sizes to the 1/2 and 3/4. Then, finally, the full size, the one he describes as having arrived at too early. That first Stradivari he received at age eleven was still somewhat too large for him, but it was an offer one would not have refused. It must be around this time, I suppose, that those malpositions began which later led to such problems with his posture and the resulting physical trouble he experienced; the pain and numbness that plagued his later teenage years to the point where he knew he had to stop, sort it all out and make a fresh start.

88 Höchstpersönlich

Watching YouTube material that shows this child-violinist in rehearsals and onstage, the unhealthy angle of his head gives the viewer an uncomfortable feeling. David’s face is resting on his instrument almost as if it were a pillow. Yes, this does illustrate his connection with the violin as the interface that produces his sound, but it also makes one worry about the discs of his neck, because this is a posture he assumes for hours each day, over months and through years. What were the adults around him thinking, one wonders. Didn’t they notice? Fortunately, David himself was able to change his habits in time to give his still resilient body the opportunity to recover.

75 Spiegel TV Porträt

The footage that shows David Garrett after his time in New York also shows the liberation of his face from his instrument. Now his head is upright and free as he plays, and he has shed those involuntary facial expressions (so typical of string players) that were still part of his playing in the early years. His bearing and all his movements are an image of complete liberation. The hard work it must have been to arrive at this seeming effortlessness can only be guessed at.

121 Zorba's Dance (2)

Interviewers have sometimes asked David Garrett if his violins have nicknames, if he has a romantic relationship with his instrument, if maybe it could be described as his woman … Now this is where I would roll my eyes and express disbelief and disgust; but David patiently explains, yet again, that he never had nicknames for his violins, that the relationship is entirely businesslike, and that, although it could be called a partnership and there is certainly attachment, the instrument is primarily a means to an end, and that end is MUSIC.

135 Metallica 2010

But there remains an enduring fascination on any interviewer’s part with the great name of Stradivari, with the thought that David Garrett’s best violin equals the value of a row of suburban homes or a country estate, and also with the fact that he once had the heartcrushing misfortune to slip and fall on his violin case, thereby damaging the instrument it contained. (It was not the Stradivari.) David says little about the time it took him to come to terms with that blow, with the daily renewed realization of this grief, but you can imagine the pain.

Now imagine carrying an object of such value through your days and much of your nights. How does it affect you? Surely it must train a heightened awareness that extends beyond the boundaries of your natural self. An attitude of protective care develops, a habitual carefulness that will in time become second nature. (As we know, first-time parents of newborns get thrown into this state without any preparation.) Organists, pianists and harpists obviously excepted, most musicians have the carrying of something vulnerable and precious through their daily lives in common. This tender, protective care is a soul quality we have always rated highly in any man. And David Garrett, trained by necessity, must necessarily have this quality in abundance. It is yet another attractive facet of his character, another string to his bow. (And never has this expression seemed more apt.)



Author: Fabienne Wolf

writing solo traveller

16 thoughts on “David Garrett and the Violin

  1. Well written and informative 🙂

  2. Hi Fabienne, I follow your blog on David since part one, and am looking forward to many more to come! What David does with music, creating a new musical sound experience, a sound magician, to me you are a wizard of words, creating intensive emotions and feelings through words in your reader’s imaginative world. Thank you for sharing your talent with us!

  3. He may not attach a nickname to each of his violins, but he does call them his “babies”. On September 10, 2015, he called his Stradivari “My baby ❤️”, on a tweet; and on the next he called his Guadagnini “My other baby”. That’s hardly an “entirely businesslike” relationship. Even more so, when asked by an interviewer whether he felt the violin had a gender, he answered: “Not really. It’s part of me.”

    • Dear Galina, my impression is that what he calls his violins to please his fans on Twitter is not entirely the same thing as his repeated statements in interviews, both in English and in German, where he always makes it very clear that his relationship with his instruments is pragmatic rather than sentimental. One may also assume that to a young man who, as yet, has no children, the term ‘baby’ might not be quite as emotionally charged as it is for us.

  4. Thank you so much for these 4 individual “open door” peaks into the life and mindset of this incredible musician and man. You have managed to say perfectly what sooo many of us feel. It’s an incredibly hard thing to describe, yet it is so real and tangible to his fans. I look forward to part 5 … and as far as I am concerned; You could just keep writing them forever. Thank you so much!

    • Dear Debbie, You are in luck. Writing more parts is almost all I am doing these days and nights. Everything else is an unwelcome intrusion; the available hours are much too few, and much too short. But it cannot go on forever … Thank you for letting me know that my writing means something to you, and to others. That is of course very motivating, and I really appreciate it.

      • You are such a wonderful writer, we wish it could go on forever. You have managed to speak what our hearts feel. Thank you!

  5. Dear Fabienne, I follow you since Part 1 “How it all began”, and want to thank you for this beautiful blog! I love reading everything you write about David. It is just the same I feel, but my knowledge of the English language is not very extensive, so I never find the words to express correctly all my emotions and feelings. First I thought I was in love with David, but that would be absurd, as I’m already a nice white headed 72 years old woman!!! Then I felt like he was my son … Now I conclude that it is pure fascination! It is almost unbelievable to me that nowadays a person like David Garrett exists. I think he is quite perfect in everything he does, says and plays. And now, about Part 4, I also wonder how his parents didn’t notice his wrong posture! As you said, fortunately he was able to perceive and correct it. Thank you very much, and look forward the next part.

    • Dear Edith, Thank you so much for your lovely comment. I think it has become clear by now that our age can have nothing to do with our admiration for David Garrett, and that we have to steer clear of the trap that labels like sweetheart, lover or son represent. Although as women we are hardwired to look for the perfect mate at all times, I believe there must be another way to think of someone as unique as David. It has been said that what you can’t get out of your head surely belongs in your heart; so let us make our hearts – regardless of age – a safe place for him, where his music resounds and his beauty is appreciated. I see him as a sunrise that can be enjoyed every day and belongs to no one, or to all in equal measure.

      • Very well put! Trouble is: far too many ladies see him as a lover, my friend for one. And now she’s disappointed she can’t have him. Not everybody puts his music first and the man second — as we should.
        By the way: you mention the adults watching young David (wrong position, pain) and doing nothing. “Mind over Matter” was his parents comment, instead of telling him to see a doctor. I’ll never understand that …

      • Oh Fabienne, you are so sensible and you show this sensibility through your magical words. You made me cry, you know? See David “as a sunrise that can be enjoyed every day” – I really loved that! I didn’t mention yet that I already got all the CDs and DVDs available here in Brasil; unfortunately there are only three of each, including “Explosive”. Please, don’t stop writing about David! Thank you very much.

      • Você é muito linda!!!
        You enchant us as David charms us!

  6. I love when he holds the violin only with his head, hands down to hold something else or to relax after a virtuosistic piece. You are completely right again, how many years should a violinist practice before being so natural? So many. Waiting for more. Thank you very much.

    • I agree, Marina, those little gestures of complete certainty in David’s handling of the violin really show the effect of many years of intense practice.

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