The Solo Traveller's View


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David Garrett and the Guys

An attempted Analysis of a Musical Phenomenon – Part 10

A look at the comments on YouTube makes it abundantly clear how the ladies, the girls and women see David Garrett:

“Soooo handsome and humble. Love him.” – “Guapísimo, sencillo, sensible … l love David, el mejor violinista del momento.” – “Handsome, talented artist and a sweet personality … He’s just a dreamy guy. Sigh!” – “All I can say is WOW! Great talent, gorgeous man in every sense.” – “Not only is he a hottie, he fills my heart with joy.” – “David Garrett: so schön kann klassische Musik sein.” – “He seems such a nice person and he’s so friggin’ talented!” – “Simplemente adorable, expone todos los más dulces sentimientos en segundos.” – “It is your inner beauty that is reflected in your music.” – “He is one of the most talented musicians of our generation, regularly sells out arenas across the world and looks like God’s interpretation of sex.” – “Con esa sonrisa tienes el mundo en tus manos.” – “Ein Ausnahmemensch: gutes Aussehen, Sprachtalent, Bescheidenheit und Intelligenz, und dann noch dieses künstlerische Talent – David, dein Erfolg sei dir von Herzen vergönnt!” – “Maravilhoso!!! David sai do estilo clássico para o rock com uma facilidade incrível, embelezando com perfeição seu estilo. É um Virtuoso na música e na beleza pessoal!” – “He is so sexy and handsome, and he has some really lovely interpretations. I am in love. Feeling like my soul is in heaven.” – “He is superb, and what a honey!” – “Grand virtuose! Merci, c’est original, parfait et cela permet d’ouvrir l’art du classique a de plus large horizons! Un grand merci pour cette passion intense!” – “Unvorstellbar, ohne Noten ein so langes Stück aus dem Gedächtnis zu spielen. David spielt göttlich.” – “No había conocido la perfección … HASTA HOY! Hombre de indiscutible talento y guapura!” – “This made me cry. You are an incredible musician and an amazing human being. Thank you, David” – “I’m in love!!!”

There is more – much more – of a similar nature, but these excerpts may serve to outline what it is about David that appeals to women of all ages.

2014 Lacrimosa 7

But what about the guys, the boys and men? How do they feel about him? Do they dismiss David Garrett out of hand as “that pretty fiddler” while shrugging in a superior manner, in an effort to preserve their self-worth? It would be understandable and not at all surprising. In a man’s world, ruled by competition and a pitiless Darwinian process of selection, how does any man feel about a fellow placed so far beyond the pale of fair comparison?

Let us take a look at YouTube comments by persons with such names as Antonio, Brian, Luiz, Gordon, Dirk, Tristan, Michel, Ron, Imron, Jose, Mark, Guy, Sebastian, Ross, etc. If we accept that these are not false identities, created to cover yet more female enthusiasm, then we have proof that not every man is envious, cynical or spiteful when it comes to David Garrett, for this is what they have to say:

“God, this man is awesome!” – “Sublime.” – “Wonderful. I can enjoy listening to it thousands of times. Thanks.” – “Bellissima! Magnifica! Ti da una forza esplosiva!” “I can’t believe I clapped to my laptop.” – “I started learning to play the violin because of this guy, and don’t ever regret it.” – “How does he memorize all these notes?” – “That’s really impressive!” – “Este hombre es un genio!” – “It’s actually painful to see so much talent and good looks in one guy. To those who say that there is some fairness or balance in this world, I just say two words: David. Garrett.” – “Just like Samson of the Bible was superhuman with his long hair, this is the Samson of the Violin.” –  “Garrett beweist allen, dass ein Mann kein Macho sein muss.” – “No, I’m not a girl/woman, nor am I a gay man.  His looks have zero effect on me. I just enjoy his music.” – “Super Typ!” – “Muito lindo, maravilhoso!” – “Die Kombination, die David Garrett verkörpert, ist sehr selten: Großes Talent, gepaart mit gutem Aussehen und gepflegten Umgangsformen. Er zeigt, was möglich ist. Hut ab!” – “Watching you play is moving. The passion I see in you, the joy, the absolute perfection in your music is inspiring to say the least. Often I listen, wishing I too could play so beautifully, without worry or concern showing, knowing that each note played is felt with passion and confidence.” – “Simplemente extraordinario!” – “Art in its purest form.”

185 I'll stand by you

Brilliant! Face it, this Juilliard graduate would not be getting 2 to 7 million views unless he was doing it right.He makes it look so easy! – “Damn, those skills … and he’s such a spontaneous guy, moving all around the stage.” – “Großartig! Ich kann nichts anderes sagen als Respekt! “He is so polite and decent, it only makes me respect him more.”“Metallica auf einer Stradivari. Ich kann in Frieden sterben …” – “Play on, David! Awesome.”

Not so very different from the girls’ comments, are they? There is the same generous appreciation of David Garrett’s outstanding skill as a violinist, the same wholehearted recognition of his musical talent, and the same admiration of his personal qualities. Missing is the current of sexual attraction that powers so many of the female comments, yet even the men are touched in their soul by the magic of David’s playing:

“This made me cry; shit, he’s good.” – “His interpretation [of Beethoven] is fantastic and not only highly musical, but so human. If all the fanatic people in this world could feel this music, this could turn the earth into paradise.” – “Que du bonheur …” – “It takes a lot to affect me, but that moved me to tears. Beautiful!” – “No hay palabras para expresar lo bello de esta música y del fabuloso violinista que es David.” – “I don’t see God, but this performance makes me feel that He sent you. All of my pain, agony, anger and sorrow are vanished. Now I am crying and playing it for the 56th time.” – “Siento que me llega al fondo de mi alma ya que sus notas las siento que me calan el sentimiento y las siento fluir en el ambiente con mayor delicadeza, pureza y con una lentitud, llevandome a un infinito frenesi y complejo de emociones sintiendo lo poco puro que tiene mi Ser.” – “He finds more in every melody than you ever thought was there.” – “Ich finde es wunderschön, wie du Geige spielst. Da bekommt man Gänsehaut. Danke!” – “I can’t help but cry whenever I hear this, and I am not sure really why – it just touches something within.” 

Grown men have no problem admitting their tears and using prose that touches on the mystic when searching for words to describe what it is that moves them so deeply as they listen to David Garrett’s playing, and all of these comments may surely serve as positive proof that his appeal is not limited to females.

2014 Carmina Burana 1

The guys who know David Garrett best must be the members of his band, because they spend a lot of time with him and could be regarded as his current family. The crossover tours with these friends must offer him a welcome break from the loneliness of travelling as a classical soloist. As like-minded musicians who work, play and hang out with David, they are surely the only people who fully understand what his life is like, for they share the joys and rewards of his success, the challenges of life on the road, the sacrifice of a normal personal life for months on end, and the exhilarating strain of giving so much to so many, day after day, city after city and country after country.

In the 2009 Interview Höchstpersönlich – Part 2, this is what they said of him. Guitarist Marcus Wolf: “He’s a fantastic musician … He’s a good guy, fun, a handsome young man … I like him.” – Pianist John Haywood: “First, when I started working with him, it was quite scary. You respect his talent, his musicianship … ” – “He is very demanding, he’s got a severe work and practice schedule. That must be part of his genius. He is a very strong and earnest person … He’s a genius, a pretty intense guy.” – “He’s a complete star. He’s got it all: the looks, the playing, a fantastic connection with the audience. I can’t see any other way but – up!” – Drummer Jeff Lipstein: “There’s nothing not clear with David. His playing is so clear, it is so easy to follow him, and it is super fun … It’s as if he were communicating with us through his violin.”

On stage, they convey that impression of a band of brothers we like so much in musicians who form a group, and as viewers we would naturally like to get a better idea of who they all are. But this is not easy through the YouTube material, for they get little exposure in past videos of concerts.

fb Uruguay 1a

Most visible is Marcus Wolf on the guitar. He is shown as a dependable support and the perfect foil for David. Most invisible, as so often, is the man at the bass, Jeff Allen, himself a Juilliard graduate. On occasion we get glimpses of a drum solo or a quick look at the keyboard, but the cameras seem quite determined to keep the focus on David alone, and they usually cut away whenever Franck van der Heijden gets too close to the frontman.

Ah, that Franck! He is an eye-catching presence, a man who has the makings of a rock god himself: the stature, the looks, the talent, the skills … yet he remains very much in the background. Is this reticence written into his contract? My first impression is that he may not be getting enough credit, even though he is a major contributor as producer, composer, arranger, conductor and instrumentalist.

176a Franck van der Heijden

It isn’t as if anything or anyone could steal David Garrett’s thunder, surely. So wouldn’t it be nice if the cameras could do what David himself did so touchingly when he dedicated a song to all those who support him in his shows? He shared pictures and humorous comments of a personal nature with the audience to make these people visible, and we appreciated it. They probably did too.

2012 Hannover 16

I think I may not be alone in wishing for a more equable video coverage of the supporting cast, and I’d like to put a request out there: Could the second half of David Garrett and his Band get a little more time in the spotlight, please? We can safely promise that it won’t hurt the first half in the least.

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David Garrett and the Girls

An attempted Analysis of a Musical Phenomenon – Part 9

As a comparative latecomer to the dating-and-mating game, David Garrett will probably have thrown himself eagerly into that particular pursuit. It must have done wonders for his self-confidence. Unimaginable that he may have met with resistance or rejection. And yet, interestingly, David’s own words in various interviews bear witness to the fact that it is not any easier for him to find true love than for the rest of us.

He makes quite a case study for all those who think that they would surely find love if they were only more good-looking, more talented, famous or rich. Especially the very young are often under the impression that these are the necessary ingredients for being happy in love, and they may torture themselves with self-loathing because they do not match this ideal profile. Well, David surely does, yet he has found it no less of a knotty problem.

So you dream of being the girl by his side? Consider this: By his right side you’ll get in the way of his bowing arm. On his left side you’ll get your eye poked out. You can’t stand before him, for then you’d come between him and his audience, and he’d never allow that. The only possible place for you is behind him. In the background, touched by the spotlight, yes, but with a semi-permanent view of his back. Girls, understand this in a metaphorical as well as a spatial sense to realise why that place by his side is so often unoccupied.

Because it certainly is not for a lack of candidates, and assuredly not for a lack of love. There are enough lovely and loving girls – so many, many more than the average man can hope to meet in a lifetime – who are instantly ready and desperately willing to go to the ends of the earth for David and have his babies, given even the slightest encouragement. How could he not be aware of it? In his own words: “Being adored is part of the job – but it is about the MUSIC.” 

And yet, as seen in all that YouTube footage, David Garrett has such a loving nature, it permeates all he says and does. His quiet, patient kindness carries through every situation recorded by the camera’s eye. Whether he is telling a funny story on stage or answering interview questions; whether he is signing autographs or giving a tour of his home: there is a great affection apparent in David, a diffusion of love that seems to stream from him impartially as summer rain from drifting clouds.

Would my impression that this is in fact his default setting hold up in real life, removed from the cameras and away from promotional situations? Only those who know him can tell. But, interviewed by Spiegel TV, David himself made the following comment in German: “I love [so many things] … I am filled with love. But does love have to be channelled [towards one person]? … Is it not essentially our ego that makes us think, I don’t want to be alone? … Because actually we are not alone …” 

These are wise words, but there remains the indisputable fact that he never needs to be alone. Uncounted numbers of lovesick girls around the world take their unrequited passion to the David Garrett fan pages and cover them in messages of devotion, in hearts and moans, in adorned photographs and sighs, and in strings of ditzy stickers that must surely be the visual equivalent of white noise. Some even like to add David’s semi-nude model pictures and words that suggest, as a YouTube commenter acidly remarked, “way too much pussy juice.” Indeed. But they cannot help themselves; or, rather, helping themselves is all they can do.

To quote a marvellous line from the film Playing by Heart: “Whenever was having sex or not having sex not a problem?” Since Adam’s ill-advised fruit intake, this problem continues to bedevil adult life from puberty to the brink of the grave. The most elegant solution, as recommended by Buddha, who was not called The Enlightened One for nothing … the most elegant solution is and will always be celibacy, for it brings peace and true freedom to those able to embrace it: “There is pleasure when a sore is scratched, but to be without sores is more pleasant still. Just so, there are pleasures in worldly desires, but to be without desires is more pleasant still.”

However, celibacy isn’t for everyone, and the next best solution is said to be marriage. But its parameter of lifelong monogamy adds another tricky dimension to the problem, and so marriage isn’t for everyone either, though most people are inclined to give it a go at least once. “Marriage is like a fortress under siege: Those outside want to get in, while those inside want to get out.”

Compulsive matchmakers with big plans must have their eyes trained on David Garrett, who has so far remained tantalizingly unattached. There has been talk that he has several girlfriends on the go, simultaneously, all around the world. Any man’s dream, in fact. But is it true? Maybe, and maybe not. It cannot be our business. Why should it be surprising if he were not strictly monogamous at this stage of his life, and with his unusual lifestyle? It is surely more surprising that he should be expected to be so. It may not suit common notions of propriety, but the sailor’s solution is in fact the only workable one for any man who spends his life on the road, should he find himself unwilling or unable to take Buddha’s advice.

Where relationships are concerned, it is fair to assume that David Garrett has to navigate the same choppy waters most of us experience in the course of our lives. Calm seas never made skilful mariners. And, in the likely case of shipwreck, it is the danger of sinking that teaches us to swim; hoping against hope, telling ourselves “it’s not as hard, hard, hard as it seems …”

Here we have the eternal relationship problem outlined by the sharp wit of the inimitable Dorothy Parker:

Woman wants monogamy;
Man delights in novelty.
Love is woman’s moon and sun;
Man has other forms of fun.
Woman lives but in her lord;
Count to ten, and man is bored.
With this the gist and sum of it,
What earthly good can come of it?

Well, no prizes for guessing the answer to that one! Shakespeare, who knew much about love and more about men, put it like this:

Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more.
Men were deceivers ever,
One foot in sea, and one on shore,
To one thing constant never.
Then sigh not so, but let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into hey nonny-nonny.

Meaning, a happy little song. “Hey nonny-nonny translates from middle English as shooby-dooby-doo-wop” … and a sounder piece of relationship advice we have yet to find.

Journalists like to come up with tags and labels for David Garrett, such as “every mother-in-law’s dream”. – Seriously? Only a man could take this view, for women surely know better. We know what it is to stumble through days blinded by tears, with a heart ripped to bloody shreds by the inconstancy of men. Wouldn’t you advise your daughter to stay well away from such a bouncy love magnet? Not that she’d listen, of course.

Girls, take a break from your daydreaming to study, if you will, the situation of Priscilla Presley: Aching with loneliness and longing while her man Elvis was away on tour, which was often; consumed by jealousy, with good reason; paralysed by unhappiness, and addicted to the drugs she took to cope … No, it is not a pretty tale, but it may help you to understand why the position by the side of a star is likely to make you deeply unhappy. Knowing that every other girl out there wants a piece of your pie and may stop at nothing to get it; knowing also that the man able to resist this temptation – if such a man can be imagined – is most likely not your man.

Considering all of this, it would certainly take a pretty exceptional girl to cope with the challenges of that place by David Garrett’s side while still managing to thrive in her personal life. But one should always make allowance for the exceptional. Such a girl may well exist. So let us hope that, one happy day, she and David will find each other.

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David Garrett’s Strength and Weakness

An attempted Analysis of a Musical Phenomenon – Part 8

Particularly interesting is David Garrett’s description of what it meant to get his first Stradivari at age eleven, and the difficult position it put him in when he realised that its peculiar sound was not suited to his needs. This tells us how finely tuned his hearing must have been already in those early years; and that, at least in part, must have something to do with why he played so well from the beginning. Although they do not draw attention to themselves, those neat, unobtrusive ears of his are very important, because they are the gateway to David’s great strength: a remarkably subtle and accurate sense of hearing.

2011 Wetten, dass ... sharpened

He gave proof of it most notably on the programme ‘Wetten, dass…?’ on German TV in 2011, when he accepted a challenge to identify at least four out of five violins by their sound, as well as naming the corresponding violinist and conductor of each particular recording of Beethoven’s violin concerto (Op. 61). David knew this to be difficult, but was prepared to try it anyway. Four recordings were then played in turn, having been picked from a row of about 30, and David closed his eyes to listen with utter concentration. The audience listened too, but – needless to say – did not hear what he heard.

He did not need that fifth guess. It never took David long to identify the sound and to name the instrument, adding the year in which it was built for good measure. Regrettably, the camera does not always show his face at the exact moment when he becomes certain of which instrument he is hearing, though surely that is the point of interest.

86 Wetten dass 2011

That David Garrett was able to identify each violin and recording correctly seems all but impossible to us predominantly visual types. We are quite ready to suspect that it must be a hoax, a setup – were it not for the assurance of the host that they would never do such a thing, and for the fact that David’s manner is consistent with the challenge. His hands are cold with nervous tension and he voices uncertainty as to whether accepting this bet has been a good idea. After all, he could really make a fool of himself. Yet he goes on to prove beyond the shadows of doubt that his sense of hearing, as well as his knowledge of violins and Beethoven recordings, is advanced to a level few will reach.

Look at it like this: We are able to identify people we know by the sound of their voice, and it calls to mind what else we know about them, such as their age and who they like to hang out with. David Garrett just happens to be acquainted not only with people, but with an impressive number of violins as well, especially Stradivaris. He recognises their voice, their timbre, and knows them well enough to fill in their particulars.

Asked by an interviewer about being a soloist in a classical concert, David’s unexpected reply is that it begins with listening. Listening to the specific way the orchestra is playing that night, listening to the music, listening to the emotions the sound carries … He does listen a lot, and he listens very closely: to his own daily practice, to the playing of others, to all the words and sounds and songs that make up his world.

But if David Garrett’s sense of hearing is his strength, his visual sense is his weakness. You wouldn’t think so, would you? Not those stunning eyes, surely? There is so much light in them, such a lively look, and he expresses his views in such a clear-sighted way. One just assumes that his eyes must be as perfect as the rest of him. But this is not the case. Little asides in various interviews reveal that David’s eyesight has always been weak. It is a family trait: his father, brother and sister all wear glasses. Despite his blurry vision, David often refused to wear the chunky spectacles he was given as a child. These days he wears contact lenses because he has no faith in laser surgery and would rather not risk his already poor eyesight in an operation.

Furthermore, David’s eyes do not distinguish colour well, and that is why he prefers to wear black, white and grey. But he has stated in an interview that his favourite colour is blue, and a helpful chart (click link) illustrates the range of shades seen with his particular type of colour-blindness, referred to as RGB Achromatomaly, showing that blue and purple are in fact the only tones that come close to the original colours. Green and brown hold a pale middle ground, but the warm and vibrant tones of red, pink, orange and yellow are missing.

So David Garrett lives in a visually dimmed world. What we see as the shades of the rainbow, he must hear as the shades of sound; and so the weakness of one sense feeds the strength of the other. But, in recompense for being deprived of a colourful world, David has been gifted with incredible eyelashes. What a consolation prize! The spiky shadow they cast under the glare of the stage lights is as the cherry on top of an ensemble that already seems much too good to be true.

162 Air - Bach 2011

There is another point to consider: David’s poor eyesight would explain the problems with spelling he mentions in another interview, where he supposes that he might be dyslexic. There is room for doubt, because correct spelling is a skill that relies first and foremost on a strong visual memory, and this in turn relies on good vision.

Almost all children with a pronounced visual orientation connect easily with those little code signs we call letters, and this easy connection results in a good understanding of how (often illogical) combinations of letters relate to the sounds of language. In a way, faultless spelling could be seen as an approximate visual equivalent to David Garrett’s aural feat of identifying violins by the colour of their sound alone, for few achieve it. Case in point: Nikolaus Harnoncourt’s name is misspelt on the TV screen, seen above. Did you notice?

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David Garrett’s Interviews

An attempted Analysis of a Musical Phenomenon – Part 7

David Garrett is an old hand at giving interviews, as the evidence stacked up on the internet shows. Interviews have been recurring events in his life for two decades, and so it is not surprising that he should have such impeccable interview manners. Sometimes, a question makes David wince ever so slightly, yet he never loses his composure.

WDR Interview 1997
1997 – WDR
2007-11-16 NDR Talkshow a
2007 – NDR

On the whole, the questions remain the same throughout the years. They usually concern his early success as a child prodigy, the amount of practice necessary to master an instrument, his home-schooling and the resulting lack of friends, the ambitions of his parents, the value of his Stradivari, his move to New York, his sideline as a model, his rock star image, his single-or-not-single status … All tediously repetitive.

It would be understandable if David showed fatigue at times, but he deals with these questions in the same way he approaches O sole mio and O Tannenbaum: by pausing to reflect, and then responding in a way that makes his answers sound fresh and new. But though his replies are always sincere, they often seem guarded. David does not reveal what he deems to be private, no matter how directly or slyly the questions are phrased. He has a delightfully inoffensive way of evading prying questions as he turns his answers to the only topic he ever really wants to talk about: MUSIC.

Of course we anticipate where each question is headed. So does David, and he rarely gives the expected answer. Though he remains unfailingly charming and polite, he will slip the net and talk once more about his passion for music, his understanding of music, his approach to music and his living through music. At times, you sense his interviewers’ frustration. It is their job, after all, to glean juicy bits of information from their subject, and as they hope to draw David out about his ‘unhappy childhood’, his ‘abusive father’ or his ‘many girlfriends’, they must be thinking, just a moment – how come he is talking about music again?

Fan comments: “So much talent, yet humble in his perspective. The combination makes a truly great man. Could listen to his music all day! Well actually I do.” – “Großartiger Mann. Tolles Interview.” – “These TV shows: like pieces of a mosaic, I collect them little by little.” – “David, gracias por compartir tus videos y tu bella música. Dios te bendiga.” – “He delights us with his charm, humbleness, wit and musical wisdom. Impossible not to fall in love with this man!” – “Speaking in front of audiences is very difficult and he does this with ease and consideration to the subject.” – “I guess he’s my favorite artist … he seems to be a humble guy.” – “I love the way he thinks, and how he explains music.” – “His answers are well thought out, intelligent.” – “Great wisdom and ideas about music, thank you for that!”

2008-03-14 Volle Kanne
2008 – ZDF Volle Kanne
2009-11-09 FrühstücksTV
2009 – FrühstücksTV

2010-10-05 Volle Kanne
2010 – ZDF Volle Kanne
2011 Behind the Scenes
2011 – Behind the Scenes
2012 Thailand
2012 – Thailand
2013-09-27 Face to Face
2013 – Face to Face
2014 Echo Klassik Interview
2014 – Echo Klassik
2015 Brazilian TV
2015 Brazilian TV
2015-10-09 NDR '3 nach 9' a
2015 – NDR 3 nach 9
2015-11-19 ZDF Volle Kanne a
2015 – ZDF Volle Kanne
Interview 3
2015 – WDR Daheim und unterwegs
Interview 6
2015 – ORF2 Vera bei …

When watching these interviews, doesn’t it amaze you how David Garrett always launches into his musical samples without the slightest pause? There is never a moment of gathering himself, no sign of his mind switching gear. He has barely finished speaking and already he is playing at breakneck speed, almost as if he never stopped in the first place. And on the faces of his interviewers there appears that very same look of quiet admiration that, we assume, is glazing our own features as we look on.

David has claimed to be a one-trick pony and to have no other skill but music. But think about it: Isn’t it a very special skill to talk so much about your own self, publicly and year after year, without coming across as conceited, vain and self-obsessed? To accept that your person is a topic of eager interest, and to satisfy that curiosity with such good grace? To share so much about yourself while still retaining some boundaries? – (Could you do it? Would you even want to try?) – But of course this is not a skill David himself could mention without coming across as conceited, vain etc.

As all DG Insomniacs know: When one has watched his interviews on YouTube, one has become attuned to David’s highly consistent way of expressing himself. It then comes as a bit of a shock to read interviews in print that make him sound peevish, vain or boastful. Any student of DG footage knows that he would never have said certain things, or certainly not expressed them in such a way. We recognize this misrepresentation and deplore the attempts of journalists to cut David down to their own size; assuming at once that they must be short, ugly, bald and talentless. Because in his televised interviews, David Garrett always comes across as patient, humble, mindful and emotionally literate – in beautiful, educated German. Fans from other countries and cultures have commented repeatedly on how agreeable he makes the language sound:

“I don’t understand a word of German, but I love to hear him speak it.” – “Och, he speaks in German so beautifully.” – “Ha una bellissima inconfondibile voce perfino quando parla in tedesco, lingua che come sappiamo ha fonicamente suoni duri.” – “I have never listened to so much German in my entire 41 years of life as with David’s interviews. Don’t understand anything except danke and geigen.” – “I cannot understand the conversation but I love watching and hearing David speak.” – “He is so cute and endearing, just love him to pieces. I watch this even though I understand not a word.” – “Never was interested in learning German, but now I do because of violinist David Garrett.”

In David, the German language has gained a striking ambassador. This is especially pleasing because it has so long been misrepresented. Those barked commands in Nazi films and Third Reich documentaries seem to be what the world has come to equate it with. But listen to David: this is what German sounds like when it hasn’t been hijacked by fanaticism, or tinged by dialect.

On the subject of preconceptions: Isn’t it amusing to read about the self-confessed confusion of passionate Latinas, confounded by the realization that this man of their dreams is German? Through their words one can almost hear traditional prejudices come crashing down on the other side of the planet.

Finally: the general lack of translations of David Garrett’s cherished interviews is sorely felt and much lamented in the comments sections on YouTube:

“Could someone translate at least some parts of the interview?” – “I need to retake my German classes.” – “It’s a pity for the fans who don’t speak German because the program seems to have been very interesting!” – “These translations on youtube do not come close to being accurate. We should demand better. The alternative is to learn German and it is not an easy language to learn.” – “Now if I only understood German! But it’s always good to to see him happy.” – “I would appreciate very much if someone could make an English translation please. It’s a pity to hear his voice and not understand a single word.” – “Start learning Deutsch, guys!”

All at once, those of us who are at home in the German language feel especially privileged.

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Note to the reader: It was this sense of privilege that initially prompted me to translate Vera’s interview for the English-speaking world of fans. But where to place such a large amount of text? Obviously Twitter, Facebook and YouTube were out of the question, but my dormant travel blog offered a suitable publishing platform and quite unexpectedly became a kind of crossover project with this series of articles that followed.

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David Garrett’s Style and Image

An attempted Analysis of a Musical Phenomenon – Part 6

There are not many questions Google has no answer to, but “Who styled David Garrett?” is one of them. That answer escapes search engines, but I shall hazard a guess and propose that the name of his stylist must be New York.

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Don’t forget that David Garrett was a boy who spent his teenage years in starched shirts, corduroy trousers and peculiar concert frocks. Home-schooled, he grew up surrounded by adults. Connoisseurs of classical music were the audiences he performed to as a child, two or even three generations removed from his own. Naturally, grown-up standards ruled David’s personal style as well as his musical repertoire. He never got to choose his pieces, nor his clothes. All this was done for him by parents with the best of intentions. And David played beautifully, looked innocent, well-mannered and well cared-for, but was not what anyone would have regarded as cool.And then this youngster, who never even owned a pair of jeans, comes to New York – the Capital of Cool, the epicentre of style, where personal attire is a matter of intense study, a way of life as well as an art form. Young David has come to this city to find himself; and find himself he does. In doing so, he also finds his personal style. It must have happened gradually, by assimilation rather than design, and to discover this new world of stylish clothing and accessories must have been exciting, liberating and rewarding in equal measure.

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In those early New York days, David Garrett’s brief sideline as a fashion model must have been helpful to him, and not just financially, for it surely gave him a welcome opportunity to pick any items he liked from the clothes he was photographed in. We may well imagine that there were delighted stylists at those shoots, eager to advise him. Come to think of it: Isn’t it surprising that the fashion industry let him slip through her painted claws? … But anyhow, David develops his style, goes blond and becomes a New York City Boy.At the same time, and as if on a parallel track, an accelerated widening of David’s musical horizon is taking place. According to his own words he did not own a single pop or rock CD in his teenage years. Now there is a whole new universe of music to discover. This must have been thrilling for someone with his musical sensibility and experience, and it may have meant a lot more to him than to most of us.

As an arrow will fly further if it has been pulled back harder, David Garrett’s unusual circumstances in growing up must have given him the momentum that carried him so great a distance. Look at him now: You no longer see the young boy who was teased in elementary school for playing the violin, or the teenager so far removed from being wickedly cool. Now that David couldn’t be any cooler (or hotter) if he tried, is it any wonder that he should be so obviously enjoying the person he has become? He appears so visibly at ease, so happy in his skin; radiating a contentment that by itself would be enough to make him irresistible.

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And where are those now, who taunted him then? Probably somewhere in the audience, wishing they had learnt to play the violin.So there you have the twinned reasons why the choices David Garrett made along the way regarding his personal appearance and his musical taste are such defining elements. That must be how his look came about, and why his wider taste in music is now reflected in his concerts. These days, David’s audiences are a happy mix of all generations. At least age-wise he is no longer the odd one out.

David Garrett had begun his musical career by playing, to put it bluntly, old music for old people. But instead of doing what any rebel might do, namely play only young music for the young in a 180-degree-turnabout, David decides on a third way: to play good music from any era to anyone of any age willing to listen, to enjoy, to learn … And it is this he does better than anyone.

Did any performer ever need a carefully constructed image less than he? No marketing idea you could come up with, even in your most inspired moments, could compare with what David Garrett is himself. Does anyone really believe that it is the rebel label, the style of his hair, of his clothes, his boots or his jewellery that makes us want to see and hear him play? Who gives a damn about what he is wearing when he plays like he does? If it were announced that David Garrett is to perform on the village green, wrapped in a piece of sacking – wouldn’t the place be swamped, regardless?

And you who bemoan his grungy appearance: Have you considered that David Garrett in tails or a tux might cause the stage to combust spontaneously? It could be a health-and-safety measure that he plays down his looks and occasionally has even been known to sport what might be grandfather’s underwear. And why shouldn’t he? His concern is for the MUSIC, and the quality of his playing remains unaffected by his outfit.

However, for some people – including critics and journalists – that this should be so is impossible to accept. Certain sneering overtones and sarcastic undercurrents in their comments and their reporting will make your blood run cold. It seems there are many who claim to know exactly how brilliant David Garrett could become if he only followed their advice.

But David has had enough experience of external determination. No more of that! Now he wears what he likes, and he plays what he likes, a champion of personal freedom. That this is not generally recognized, and that people can only regard it as a clever marketing strategy: isn’t it because such a degree of individual liberation is still unusual, even in a society that likes to call itself The Free World?

The controversy David Garrett has sparked, both with his personal style and his particular approach to music, reflects the ancient struggle between two opposing forces: between those who like to move forward, and those who like to hold back. Which side are you on?

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Note to the reader: I need to remind you that I am describing David Garrett’s journey as I read it in his YouTube material. After listening to David’s interviews, both in English and German, this is how my imagination fits the pieces together. But no part of my description is based on direct knowledge of the actual facts, and it follows that my reading may be partly inaccurate or even totally incorrect at times. Please, do keep that in mind.

Maybe it really is the case, as has been suggested repeatedly, that David Garrett’s image is the concept and the creation of his managers Peter Schwenkow and André Selleneit; the man, to quote Vera Russwurm, “who made Milli Vanilli great” … (Good Lord! Wouldn’t it be better if he kept that quiet?) … I just can’t bring myself to believe it.

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David Garrett, a Rebel by Circumstance

An attempted Analysis of a Musical Phenomenon – Part 5

Clinging to David Garrett is the label of a rebel. For his appearance is not that of the classical musician, his concerts are no longer the kind his early audiences would expect, and his approach to music mixes up entrenched concepts, making them seem redundant.

It is interesting to see that, in the course of his life, he has found himself repeatedly in positions that cast him as a rebel; even though, as he has stated, his natural inclination is to live in harmony with those around him.

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A rebel, by definition, is someone who resists any authority, control or tradition on principle. (You know the type.) This does not seem to be David Garrett’s character, yet there is a recurring motif in his life that forces his resistance. It always comes in the shape of a pivotal situation in which the stakes are high, such as a first Stradivari, a first-class record label or a classical career. The decisions to be made are of such an unusual nature that the boy, the teenager and the young man in turn can have no previous cases to consult. And each time, his instinct sets him on a course that is in conflict with what older and supposedly wiser people express as their considered opinion. Their views are not at all foolish; they make good sense and could easily be accepted as sound advice. But David’s insight prompts him to disagree with them all and to contradict universally held opinions.

The awareness that he was about to upset and disappoint his nearest and dearest must have been distressing each time. And never more so than when he came to realise that the Stradivari he had received as a loan at age eleven (and through the president of the German Republic, no less) was in fact a flawed instrument and did not suit his needs. What a dilemma! He is still so young: How can he make his view heard, have his words accepted? A simple truth, arrived at by direct experience, is now standing in conflict with everybody else’s opinion. Of course he knows that he will be regarded as arrogant and ungrateful, and it must pain him; because young David is not rebellious by nature, and certainly not for the heck of it. He just sees things differently from his perspective.

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The situation is repeated in his late teens, when he arrives at the conclusion that he needs to take Isaac Stern’s advice to find his own way, his own voice and his own personality. To do this he has to leave home, and so he moves to New York to study violin and composition. It would be normal and easy enough in another person’s life; just a matter of leaving the nest, probably applauded by everyone. How many parents wouldn’t be thrilled to find that their teenage son had secretly applied to the Juilliard School of Music – and been accepted? Could you think of anything that would make you more proud?

But for David, this step is fraught with difficulties: He has to sever ties with a first-class record label, let down first-rate conductors, disappoint international audiences as well as his agent, his management and – last, but by no means least – his parents, to whose dedicated efforts his early success and promising career owe almost everything. Of course David knows that he will be regarded as foolish and ungrateful; yet he finds the courage to face the displeasure of those he loves and respects. He has to do what he knows is right, and if following his conviction casts him in the role of the rebel – so be it.

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Then that situation recurs in his twenties, this time taking the shape of a career decision. Only by now David knows that he can trust his own judgement, and the role of the rebel feels familiar. Against the advice of “about ten thousand people” he embarks upon a new way of presenting classical music to a wider, and younger, audience. He finds support and the right people to work with, he shares his vision and his enthusiasm. And, with this final act of perceived rebellion against tradition and all commonly held beliefs, he breaks free and becomes hugely successful.

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So many battles, so many victories. In following the compass of his own conviction through all kinds of storms, David Garrett achieves an enviable measure of freedom, of joy and contentment, as well as a sense of purpose. Instead of following the smooth path to international renown that was laid down for him so early, David proves that he is able to get there on his own terms. Does that make him a rebel? It makes him a man – in the best sense of the word. And now, at last, the world is ready to listen.

“This has to be the most loved man in the world!” a fan comments. He surely deserves it.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.)

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