The Solo Traveller's View


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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.

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.113 Metropolis (Arte) - CopyAnd 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.

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.242 fbAt 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.

And where are those now, who taunted him then? Probably somewhere in the audience, wishing they had learnt to play the violin.233 Méditation 2010So 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?

***

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.

To be continued with David Garrett’s Interviews. 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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The David Garrett Success Story – How It All Began

This is my translation of the Interview on Austrian TV, ‘Vera bei David Garrett’ – November 07, 2015. (I skipped Vera Russwurm’s introduction. The wording of the interview has been minimally streamlined and edited for better understanding. Banter, repetitions, irrelevancies and talking across each other have been left out.) 

Vera: “Thank you for inviting me to your home in Berlin, and into your circle of close friends. Even though all of you are also working together, the two of you [to Jörg Kollenbroich] are also best friends, right?”

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David Garrett: “Yes, we have now been on the road together for seven years, and initially we got to know one another on a professional level. At the time I had a contract with DEAG and they hired him for the tour, and the first thing that made a good impression on me … because, before that, I had another tour manager who categorically refused to carry my suitcase. I have some trouble with my back, though I’m a pretty strong guy … [laughs] … but he was great, he just grabbed my suitcase.”

Vera: “Did you do that of your own accord, or were you told to?”

Jörg: “I just did it. I’d help any old lady on the underground. That’s how I was raised.”

David: “I really liked that. He mucks in and doesn’t think himself above such things.”

Vera: “So a connection was forged, and then you realised that your paths had already crossed once before, a long time ago.”

Jörg: “We had been on the road for a couple of weeks and were sitting in a car together. He said, ‘Say, Jörg – don’t we know each other from someplace?’”

David: “Your face seemed familiar. Let me begin the story and correct me if I’m wrong. I grew up in Aachen and there was just this one club, the ‘Starfish’ …”

Jörg: “… and I worked there as a bouncer in my student days. I worked with a team and we selected entrants at the door.”

David: “I was a just a pupil at the time and … well, you did let me in … [laughs] … but I was wearing a baseball cap and I remember you telling me to take it off as I went in …”

Jörg: “… and you said, no problem, I’ll do that.”

David: “Yes, well – I’m kind of obstinate, and that cap went with my outfit. Once inside, I put it back on after a while. A few minutes later, he taps on my shoulder and asks me to follow him. I’m thinking he might present me to a girl …”

Jörg: “… or get an autograph …”

David: “Nonsense! I wasn’t recognized at the time, so I didn’t think of that, but I thought …”

Jörg: “What an idea … that the bouncer would introduce you to anyone!”

David: “You see, I was really naïve then … that’s what you get from being home-schooled … and so we go outside, it’s almost winter and I’m just wearing a T-shirt. And then he tells me, ‘That’s it, you’re not going back in.’ – ‘What? All my things are inside!’ … And the reason was just the fact that I had put my cap back on … You swine!” [Laughs]

Vera: “Very strict! – But it is amazing that you [Jörg] should remember this.”

Jörg: “Well, I only remembered it after he told me. Of course this was just one among many incidents and not at all dramatic.”

David: “Hey, I’ve never been asked to leave anywhere else. That was the one and only time.”

Jörg: “It is quite awkward to find myself suddenly on the other side, as [his] employee.”

Vera: “But you hadn’t recognized David …”

David: “I wasn’t known then! Maybe in the world of classical music some people knew of me, but how many CDs did I sell back then? Maybe a thousand, or fifteen hundred.”

Vera: “But in the classical world you were the child prodigy …”

David: “Yes, but Jörg Kollenbroich isn’t someone who had my early CDs on his shelf.”

Vera: “And how was it with you, Andy? Did you know of David, the Wunderkind?”

Andy: “Not at all, not at all. I was suddenly confronted with an entirely new face and a new name.”

Vera: “And yet you [David] had already been called ‘the greatest violinist of his generation’ by Yehudi Menuhin.”

David: “That’s because I grew so fast in those years.” [Laughs]

Vera: “And at age 13 you were already playing a Stradivari.”

David: “Well, actually even earlier than that. I got the first Stradivari at age 11. It happened really early on, I was still very young when I began to do that professionally … Surely also because my parents saw the talent and supported it, even with occasionally applied pressure. Admittedly, without this pressure many things would not have come about. And so I played a concert, aged 11, at the Villa Hammerschmidt, and of course the president of the German Republic, Richard von Weizsäcker, was there. He got me the instrument through his connections and put in a good word on my behalf. At the time, this was pretty sensational for me … to get a Stradivari at age 11.”

Vera: “I believe you were privately educated, taken out of school.”

David: “Yes, for the entire time of secondary school until I returned as a regular student to college. But the time in between … [laughs] … At what age does one attend secondary school? Ten, eleven? Yes, the decision was made after fourth grade (though I could have continued, my grades were ok) but my parents saw my potential. I wouldn’t have minded going to school, to be honest. Those five to six years I missed out on, socially … [laughs] … I believe they do make themselves felt occasionally. But on the other hand, I practised a lot during that time. That’s the good thing.”

Vera: “That is good – but you didn’t have many friends.”

David: [laughs] “Actually, I had no friends at all … I had no schoolmates. I started at nine o’clock in the morning – excuse me for laughing, but it seems funny now. Every morning at nine, if I wasn’t travelling with my father and playing concerts, I would get up. My parents were generous, so if I had returned late after playing a concert, my private tutor would have to wait for an hour until I had woken up. It was a real luxury, but very isolated. We had a separate room for my private tuition, which was very intense. I didn’t have the usual amount of school hours [per day], but only four to four and a half, maximum. But there wasn’t anyone else, so when the teacher posed a question, one couldn’t drop one’s gaze and wait for someone else to answer the question.”

Vera: “But didn’t you like all the applause, the fame and acclamation? Or did you just want to be like all the other boys, with less practice and more friends?”

David: “Up to this day I don’t enjoy the fame, being recognized. It seems to me – no, it is – embarrassing. Not once in my life did I have the thought ‘I want to be famous’ … I never saw myself on stage in my dreams, enjoying success. If I do see myself on stage in a dream, it is usually a nightmare … because I really dislike going on stage. For me, the only reason to go on stage is to make music.”

Vera: “This is a sensational cue … I mean, the two of you [Jörg and Andy] have surely heard David play in private many times, but I … You’ve just released your new album, Explosive … Would you play something from it?”

David: “Of course.” [Unpacks his violin]

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Vera: “And that is another Stradivari?”

David: “Yes, but this is … I really don’t want to make my first one look bad, but I have to say that to get a Stradivari at such a young age is difficult. Firstly, a full-sized instrument was still too large for me at that point, and secondly, the violin I was given was not ideal. Everyone thinks a Stradivari is like a Ferrari and they’re all fantastic – but their sound is very, very different. Stradivari was … how to explain this … he made many, many attempts. And this violin, unfortunately, had been an unsuccessful attempt. The problem is, when you’re 11 years old and trying to explain to your parents why this particular violin does not work for you … of course you will look rather arrogant.”

Vera: “And one needs to appreciate the value of such an instrument. This Stradivari, for example – can you give us an approximate figure?”

David: “Well, the important point I was trying to make – and we can come back to the value in a moment – is that your average guy would say, ‘Man alive, you arrogant cub! Here you are at age 11 with a Stradivari – and you don’t like it?’ … I must add that, if this same Stradivari were offered me today, for free, I wouldn’t take it … because its sound does not at all do justice to my notion. At some point I returned this violin and chose to play a cheaper instrument, because it gave me more … or rather, it gave me a range from which I could form the sound I wanted. This other Stradivari had such a peculiar sound, I couldn’t do anything with it, couldn’t vary it. This Stradivari, however, is not a failed attempt. This is a good one.”

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Vera: “But now let’s return to its value, so people can appreciate …”

David: “The value is completely irrelevant! Unless you have to buy it.”

Vera: “Well, if you were to buy it? – In this case, it is a loan, isn’t it?”

David: “No, that one is mine. If it weren’t mine, I could talk more easily about the price tag … but it’s difficult.”

Vera: “In any case – somewhat over a million euros?”

David: “It’s six times one million euros.”

Vera: “Six times one million! … Well, just so we know …”

David: [plays piece from album]

Vera: “Is this one of your own compositions?”

David: “Yes, that is one of several of my own pieces which, if I may say so, I had the courage to write for this crossover album. In the past I always included one or two of my own compositions in the crossover albums, but this time I wanted to open the door a bit further for myself as a composer. It is what I studied [at the Juilliard School of Music], and because so many people only see me as a cover artist it was important to me to show that writing music means a lot to me, that it is part of me as a person. It is quite difficult to find the right sound for pieces by Michael Jackson or Metallica, for example … to find the right balance between the orchestra and the band, to write new transitions. Arranging music – if you do a first-rate job – is exceedingly difficult, so if you are able to write good arrangements, you will also be able to write original music. And that was very important to me with this album.

Vera: “In any case, it’s a huge success … [to Andy] … How many tickets have you sold this year?”

Andy: “David tours stadiums and arenas, so he draws crowds of over 20’000 on a regular basis. That’s the kind of league, and I think this number tells you more than saying you sell 200’000 tickets per tour.”

Vera: “But in any case it has grown huge. In the meantime, you have become a superstar of the masses. David Garrett has left the narrow sector of classical music behind. Was that your goal?”

David: “No. It has never been my goal to become famous or to appeal to the masses.”

Vera: “Now I must ask this of Jörg: Even if the image [of David] was a good one from the start … because, seven years ago, the image that was marketed was different, wasn’t it … well, let’s say ‘Most Beautiful Violinist in the World’, ‘Rebel of the Violin’ … wasn’t that a deliberate way of saying, hey, here comes one who is different, who does things differently?”

Jörg: “I would not say that at all! When I met David, he looked just as he does now. He always went about like this and always had his own style. There has never been a marketing consultant who told him to wear these boots, those jeans or that hat … or anything like it. It has always been David’s own style, probably formed during his time in New York, in contact with cool people, and I believe that this is the secret behind it: that he has always been genuine in everything he did. He never put on an act onstage, yet he opened up the world of classical music to a young audience … a world that seems at first rather fusty to many, myself included. I barely knew the name of these composers and none of their works, but in working with David this world has opened up to me. And when you see how young the audience is, how enthusiastic people are across all age groups … you might say from eight to eighty, they are all represented. However, the percentage of young people, say between twenty and forty, is considerable.”

Vera: “And in all of these age groups, the majority is female.”

David: “I don’t think one can say that.”

Jörg: “That is an often repeated prejudice. David is a good-looking guy, I understand that the girls think he’s great. He is tall, he’s handsome …”

David: [with a big smile] “I pay him well.”

Jörg: “But it’s a fact! He is likeable and attractive, also to men. Youngsters say of him, man, that is one cool guy.”

Vera: “So, being tour manager is like being a nanny, isn’t it? If David needs something, you are there for him … even if you weren’t friends.”

Jörg: “The term ‘nanny’ sounds rather negative. Of course one offers support. I think the traditional role of the tour manager is that of the accountant as travel guide. He is the first port of call for any issue, and one gets to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, complementing each other. And if you do it in the spirit of friendship, that is really great.”

Vera: “That really is great.”

David: “One also learns a lot from the other. In this profession, you get to know a lot about the business. [To Jörg] You learnt an incredible amount during those seven years, also about human interaction, what works and what doesn’t.”

Jörg: “You learn every day, and if you can have a frank exchange … and we do, we talk openly about whatever … you always get the other’s perspective to complement or change your own. You might say, man, you’re right – my approach would have been totally stupid, so we’ll do it like this for these reasons. And that is a great development, where one can learn with and from the other.”

Vera: “In the course of seven years everyone changes a little bit. You as well as David. Has success changed him in any way, from your point of view, and be it only an increase in self-confidence?”

David: [to Jörg] “Do you remember Rio, the hotel?”

Jörg: “Yes, let’s put it like this: Something that is really important to him now – and it doesn’t always meet with my approval – is that we stay in very good hotels. I understand his reasoning. We travel an awful lot, and so he insists on staying in good hotels.”

David: “It’s the most important thing. A hotel is my home. If the room is bad, I change hotels, and with good reason: I need a good ambiance for my work. This is [about] my life, my quality of life. So I don’t put up with a bad bed, bad lighting and so on. You return at night to your home that is just how you like it, where you feel comfortable. For me, a bad hotel is just the worst nightmare.”

Vera: “How many nights a year do you spend on the road?”

David: “Between 300 and 320. And I spend them in hotels, which is why I need to feel comfortable and at home to a certain degree.

Vera: “But as for the locations of your performances … [to Andy] those would be your responsibility, the tour plans.”

Andy: “I have to say in all honesty that I can’t enter into the topic of tours as those two can, who are on the road … I had the role at DEAG, we had founded a small record label which released David’s first album in Germany, and David did a tour at the same time.”

Vera: “And you just said, ‘We want this guy!’”

Andy: “We want this guy!”

David: “Actually, it was a bit more complicated. If I may explain in more detail: Universal said … well, it was their manager at the time, Christian Kellersmann, who could have taken on my project. He listened to the album I had just recorded and told me it was rubbish, that no one would want to listen to it, and where would we place it on the shelves? There’s pop, rock, jazz and classical, and it fits nowhere. ‘You’re not going to sell four of them!’ – That’s what he told me. I replied, ‘Christian, I respect your opinion, but we have to find a way’. And he said it didn’t look good with him … Yet I already had a contract with Universal. Then I did a TV program – I believe it was ‘Titel, Thesen, Temperamente’ – which one of you guys saw. I believe it was Peter Schwenkow, who then invited me for a talk …”

Vera: “… because he saw you play on TV?”

Andy: “David had signed with a London company in 2007 …”

Vera: “… and at that time David Garrett was unknown in Germany.”

David: “Totally unknown.”

Vera: “You’ve risen steeply since then! … Even in the classical scene you were no longer a name. First a child prodigy, and then it was over.”

David: “Exactly. I hadn’t played [concerts] in five years.”

Vera: “Not even in New York.”

David: “I didn’t do concerts anymore, intentionally, during the time of my studies [at Juilliard’s] and hadn’t performed in five years. And if you haven’t been on stage for that long, people begin to wonder whether you can still do it.”

Vera: “Those that remember to ask … for the market value decreases rapidly.”

David: “It takes a very long time to build a reputation, especially at that age. I had played a lot of concerts at age 17 – 18. Then came the break, and to return at age 22 – 23, asking to be invited once more … You have to audition all over again.”

Vera: “That was extremely difficult. And that is precisely the time when this story takes place. What interests me: This break you mentioned – did the pressure become too much or did you just want to be more yourself and escape the management of your parents?”

David: “Firstly, I no longer felt comfortable, and secondly, I was no longer good. At that age I noticed that there was no consistency in my development and I searched for ways to improve. There were several things that were not ok: bowing, vibrato and posture … So, in my playing, there were a number of things that needed improving and I pondered for a long time how to change this. Of course one could make small adjustments and continue to play concerts, but there were so many problems and building sites that I told myself to stop, and to start over from square one.”

Vera: “Wasn’t that difficult for your parents, who had such high expectations of you?”

David: “[To them] it was incomprehensible.”

Vera: “So it was also a break with your family at the time.”

David: “Yes. My father had worked with me for many years, and one has to say that he always saw me as extraordinarily talented. To him, I have always been the best of the best. But the problem is that when you are this close, your judgement is very subjective. It is lovely that he saw me like this, but he could not under these circumstances understand that I saw it differently. My saying that I wanted to study, that there were faults I wanted to correct … that he did not understand. Because he just saw my excellence, and not my mistakes.”

Vera: “Ok … and at this point Andy comes into play, after he saw you on TV.”

Andy: “Those were magical moments, the likes of which we rarely see in this business. Everything fitted. Peter was on a business trip in London and had visited the company that had David under contract. They had produced his album and tried to offer it to that German company, for distribution in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. That was the talk ‘We don’t believe this will work’. And Peter returned from London, where crossover was really big at the time. He told me about it and handed me a stack of CDs to occupy myself with. And then came that key phone call with Peggy Smith, who worked at the London company. She called me and said, ‘We have this artist, his name is David Garrett; we tried to convince this German company, but they have no faith … Would you do it?’ That was really bizarre, because when you make a decision of this kind, it normally takes a long time. One considers the investments, the work and everything else; one brings it to the team for discussion … And the funny thing was, as I was on the phone with Peggy, I googled David – that’s the great thing these days – and while she was still talking, I said to her, ‘We’ll do it!’ … Peggy just carried on talking, thinking she still needed to convince me. That was such a magic moment! And when David came to Berlin, we all sat round the table and cleared everything within two hours. We had the complete concept.”

Vera: “When was it … I seem to have heard … that David played somewhere and it was the response of the women in that private audience that swayed the decision, because they were so enthusiastic?”

[She is referring to the  Spiegel TV ‘Porträt’ of December 21, 2014, where Peter Schwenkow made the following statement (at 21.10): “Before we went on tour for the first time, I invited him to a private concert at my home. About 80 to 90 friends were there. David came and played in this intimate setting, and I saw at least 50 pairs of female eyes light up – and I knew, this was going to work.”]

David: “How come I don’t know about this?”

Andy: “Indeed, there is another name linked to this story of how it all began, and that is Elke Krüger, who accompanies David’s career to this day and does the media management. After my phone call with Peggy I contacted Elke, who I knew was about to go to Leipzig where they were looking for something special, and I sent her photos and music and also a video of David from the proms. Elke and I had been working together for 20 years and we were used to building up new artists. How to get media attention – that is always difficult, because people are reluctant and prefer Frank Sinatra, the Beatles and other things they know. And now a sensational thing happened: Elke returned from her trip to Leipzig and said, ‘Andy, you won’t believe this. All the women at the broadcasting centre and all the editorial staff have put up the pictures of David on their office walls, they love David Garrett, they talk about him’ … and that was that.”

David: “And I thought they liked the music! … After all these years you’re telling me … [with mock indignation] What impudence!” [Laughs]

Jörg: “It was always the whole package.”

Vera: “On the topic of women: I’d like to mention – I don’t know if you’ve read about this – that David has been in a relationship for a while, but now that appears to be over.”

David: “At the moment I am very much occupied with promoting [the new album], assisted by Elke who always makes sure that I am permanently entertained, participating in talks and shows. That is very important right now and I appreciate it. To me, the most important thing is my work, and so I find myself in an intermediate zone right now.”

Vera: “An intermediate zone … I’ve read the following statements made by you. If I may quote …” [takes out her notebook]

David: “Of course – but they may not be accurate.”

Vera: “That is just what I want to find out! [She reads] ‘I am someone who can get along damn well just by himself.’ – Is that right?”

David: “Did I say damn? Probably …” [He nods]

Vera: [continues] “’That has become my way of life over the course of time.’ – Accurate? [David nods] – ‘I have been on the road for over 12 years now and am very much focused on myself. I don’t – (and here it comes) – miss a permanent relationship.’”

David: “I never missed that, certainly. I am just as happy and content when I’m not in a relationship. I don’t think there’s a difference. [Turning to Jörg] You’ve seen me in relationships and without them. Is there a difference?”

Jörg: “Well, the phone bill tends to be different … But you just don’t have the time to commit. Either you meet a girl – and the same goes for me – who says she can accept that her boyfriend is away such a lot; or you have a girl who, at some point, realizes that she doesn’t want a rock star and prefers Joe Blogs, who has an ordinary job and comes home at five o’clock each day. Which one can totally understand.”

Vera: “One probably imagines it to be easier than it actually is.”

David: “I believe that a relationship is fundamentally difficult, no matter what situation you’re in.”

Andy: “I have always admired your clarity in this matter; how clearly you perceive your life, and how relationships fit into it.”

David: “Well, I always state my priorities right at the beginning. If they don’t believe me, they’ll soon notice. Music has top priority, my job and my performance. That is the most important thing – my ability to perform.”

Jörg: “But I believe that they have a hard time gauging that.”

David: “At first they think, he doesn’t really mean it. But in the end, if I know I have to practise and my girlfriend would like to have a romantic dinner, I have to tell her that, no, I need to practise.”

Vera: “Tough as nails.”

David: “And why? Because the people who come to my concerts expect top quality. They wouldn’t come back otherwise, and I would never compromise on that … for a woman!”

Vera: [sweetly] “Well, in that case the right one hasn’t appeared yet.”

David: “That’s what they all say, initially. But these are my priorities, and they will never change – never!”

Vera: “Never say never, David.”

David: “If I were to find the right woman, only to notice that my work was suffering, I would break up with her.”

Jörg: “That sounds extremely harsh, but actually it isn’t. If you work in a bank, you have to start at eight and finish at six – or at seven, if you’re the manager – and you don’t take your wife or girlfriend to work with you. This work is important for your life, your ability to live. And it’s the same with us. The issue is that we don’t come home at night, but naturally we have to focus on what it is we are doing. And that can’t be done if you say, oh, I’ll spend tonight with my sweetheart.”

Vera: “Listening to you, one might suppose that we, in Austria … and with you being on the road a lot [we’d see more of you] … but you only ever give one concert in Austria each year. (…) But one question concerning this year’s performance: It was precisely the day of that terrible road-rage incident. How did you handle it? I heard that the concert was going to be cancelled, but then it went ahead and there was huge dismay among the population.”

David: “That was very difficult. It was not my decision to make. I did not say, ‘We’ll play anyway’. The local organizer decided to go ahead. I have to say that such incidents are unforeseeable and terribly tragic, and before we began the concert I went on stage and spoke about the situation. That was important to me, so the audience would know that this wasn’t being ignored. The show was meant as entertainment, and I wanted people to know that [the tragedy] affected me too, made it hard for me … Ultimately, music is very healing. If I’m not feeling well or have problems, I listen to music.”

Vera: “You listen to music – you don’t play yourself?”

David: “No. I could do, but listening requires less focus. I believe that music has an important function, not just when you’re happy, but especially when you are not. That’s why I didn’t have a problem going ahead with that concert. In the end, there is nothing more important than consolation at such a time. That’s why we played.”

Vera: “Do your parents attend your concerts? Do they like what you do now?”

David: “They are great fans of all I do. There are differences in taste, which is normal, but they are happy to attend and think it great … all the things that have happened in both areas, whether I do crossover or classical tours. But it has to be said that – especially when my father is present, who worked so intensively with me in my youth – I do get somewhat nervous. Even though he tells me that there is really no need, that he thinks I’m great, that I do this better than anyone … One can’t get it out of one’s system. On stage I have to take a very deep breath.”

Vera: “Is it because he was also your severest critic? He was tough on you, wasn’t he?”

David: “Very tough. From my fourth to my eighteenth year, he was my teacher.”

Vera: “Is it true that he occasionally hit you with the violin, or the bow?”

David: “The violin would have been too expensive.”

Vera: “But he was brutal in his severity.”

David: “Quite. He was not overly gentle.”

Vera: “And at that time, until you left home, did you ever think, I don’t want to do this? I just don’t want the pressure … and cry, and scream, and throw a tantrum …”

David: “Yes, exactly.”

Vera: “And who prevailed? – In the long run, obviously your father.”

David: “Obviously … [laughs] … or I would not be sitting here.”

Vera: “But today you are glad? Or do you sometimes feel that he robbed you of a part of your childhood?”

David: “Of course he did. I’m aware of it and there is no point pretending otherwise. And I’m certain that if he were here today, he would admit it. He is not crazy – on the contrary, he thinks very clearly. Only it was an unusual situation for both of us. For me, because I wanted to do this – though not always – but I noticed that it was something I could do well. For my father, he was so close that it was hard to remain objective, and so he took a lot of decisions about which he was later unhappy. In theory they were right, for they brought about that increment of intensive practice. But looking back, I doubt that he would do those same things again. In the end it was all right, even though I would not want to have to go through it again. It was too … too …”

Vera: “… intense …”

David: “Nice word!”

Vera: “Does reproach or gratitude predominate now? You wouldn’t be where you are without him.”

David: “I’m not religious, but I believe one has to let go of things. I’m not someone who lives in the past. Yes, I did feel reproachful for a while after I left home, but I believe that if you hold on to reproach or regret, it robs you of so much energy and strength, so at some point I put it aside. Otherwise you can’t focus on today and tomorrow, which is much more important. I don’t know if I swept it under the carpet, so to speak … At some point it was no longer important. It didn’t touch me anymore. And then there was respect for his work, and for recognizing things that I probably wouldn’t even recognize in a young musician. He recognized it – no matter how – and so there is certainly respect.”

Vera: “There is also respect on my part for your achievements, of which I would love to hear a small sample.”

David: “Certainly.” [Plays solo passage from the Devil’s Trill Sonata]

22

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