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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.

***

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.

To be continued with David Garrett’s Strength and Weakness. If you click ‘follow blog via email’ you won’t miss it. And please leave a comment below. I do appreciate and need your feedback, so please help me by recording those kind words you like to post on Twitter and Facebook on this site as well. Thank you!

(All photographs are screenshots drawn from YouTube, for the purpose of illustration only. I trust the authors will allow this use of their picture material. No copyright infringement is intended.) 

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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.

70a sharpened

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.

sharpened 4The 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.

sharpened 3Then 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.

sharpened 2So 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.

***

To be continued with a closer look at David Garrett’s Style and Image. If you click ‘follow blog via email’ you won’t miss it.

(All photographs are screenshots drawn from YouTube, for the purpose of illustration only. I trust the authors will allow this use of their picture material. No copyright infringement is intended.) 


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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.

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.)

***

To be continued … We shall take a closer look at David Garrett’s Rebel Image next. If you click ‘follow blog via email’ you won’t miss it.

(All photographs are screenshots drawn from YouTube, for the purpose of illustration only. I trust the authors will allow this use of their picture material. No copyright infringement is intended.)