The Solo Traveller's View


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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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