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In English: David Garrett’s Interview on WDR ‘Daheim & unterwegs’

19th November 2015 – Chat Show Hosts: Eva Assmann and Stefan Pinnow

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(Intro, played by David)

Eva: (Applauding) “Fantastic – our opening theme never sounded so good! Could you do this every day?” (Laughs)

Stefan: “David Garrett just gave his interpretation of our theme tune, from today the CD will be widely available …”

(They laugh)

David: “I hope it is recognizable.”

Stefan: “It is.”

David: “Thank you.”

Stefan: “Especially that tüdüdüdüm …”

David: “Absolutely – I tried hard to get it right.”

Eva: “Great! We are so pleased to have you with us today …”

David: “So am I.”

Eva: “… a real superstar, a son of Aachen, and he has been with us before, many, many years ago. We shall have to talk more about that in a moment, about all that happened in the meantime.”

David: “Quite a bit!” (Laughs)

Stefan: “And here we have our wonderful Questions-Bingo, with the best questions one could be asked … Go on and take one!”

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(David picks a card and reads it out)

“What was it you never told your parents about?”

(They laugh)

Eva: “The moment of truth!”

David: “For my 18th birthday – my parents were away – I cleared out all the furniture. My grandmother was there, my dad’s mother, and she helped me, and then I invited my whole class. We celebrated with an extended party. Fortunately, I had two days to put the house back in order. But then there were pictures, because a lot of people took photos, and so my parents did find out about it eventually. But for a long time I didn’t tell them about it.”

Eva: “Did you get into trouble?”

David: “My grandmother got into more trouble than I did, because she had allowed it.”

Eva: “We’ll pose the other 35,000 questions in a moment …”

(Talk-show-related announcements)

Eva: “Right, the air is about to catch fire! You wouldn’t necessarily expect so, because this is about violin music …”

Stefan: “… but the way David Garrett plays, it is going to be really hot!”

(David plays Explosive from his new album while the music video is shown)

Eva: “… And we are right in the middle of it, Stefan immediately wanted to get the phone number of the girl who performed in the video …”

David: “Then I’ll have to explain to him that there are in fact three girls.”

Eva: “Why three girls?”

David: “Initially, we were looking for someone who was really proficient in both kinds of dance – and pole dancing has meanwhile also become an art form, if it is done well – so we were looking for someone who was good at ballet, good at pole dancing, and had some acting talent as well – and in the end that was only possible with three girls. But we did carry it off somehow …”

Stefan: “… that it looks like a single one.”

David: “Rather explosive!”

Eva: “Explosive – that is the title of the piece, and also of the new album you just released. We are delighted to have you here, because – well, you have been here before, but admittedly that is a while back.”

David: “I heard of that, and I remembered – you, first and foremost.”

Stefan: (pleased) “He pointed to me!”

David: “At the time, I mentioned in our talk that I watched Disney Club as a child, with Antje, Stefan and Ralf.”

Stefan: “Without Eva – that’s important! … (Unintelligible) … I still remember asking you about your violin – was it anything special? Ah, a Stradivari – and was it valuable? Yes, it was insured for …”

Eva: “Fourteen millions, I believe.”

David: “Well, it isn’t fourteen millions, but …”

Eva: “… but almost.”

David: “Not quite … Meanwhile I have another Stradivari, because I have been very, very fortunate in my life. Initially, they were partly on loan, but this one is now mine.”

Eva: “(Unintelligible) … dropped.”

David: “Well, I do try … (unintelligible) … ssshhhh!”

Eva: “Seriously, did you ever happen to break a violin?”

David: “It happened once – unintentionally, of course – but unfortunately I did have an accident. I generally like to carry my violin on my back during transport, and I slipped and fell backwards onto the violin case. That caused a lot of cracks, naturally – but it wasn’t this instrument.”

Eva: “We’ll show you the violin you played for us at the time … (unintelligible)”

(At this point, there appears to be a bit missing from the interview recording)

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(David plays Rimsky Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumblebee)

Eva: “Weren’t you actually entered in the Guinness Book of Records with the Flight of the Bumblebee?”

David: “Yes.”

Eva: “As the fastest bumblebee-performer …”

David: “That’s right.”

Eva: “… far and wide, and for a really long time: from 2008 to 2010! And then someone caught up with you.”

David: “No, no – that is utter nonsense.”

(Eva and Stefan laugh)

David: “I have to clarify this: The guy didn’t play on an acoustic violin. You (to Stefan) play a bit of guitar, I believe. So you know the difference between an acoustic and an electric guitar.”

Stefan: “Yes, of course.”

David: “With the electric instrument you can move a lot faster, because you have no resonating body. And the guy who supposedly took the record off me did it on an electric violin. Which means he did not have to exert any pressure at all to make the body resonate.”

Stefan: “Something else entirely!”

David: “Something else entirely … I don’t know what they were thinking at the Guinness Book of Records, but they certainly weren’t musicians.”

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Stefan: “Ok, but back then it was really one of your very first appearances on TV. In Japan you were already a superstar, but here with us it was your first time, I believe, or your second or third time on German television, and since then things have changed a bit.”

David: (laughs) “Yes, you could say that! Absolutely crazy, what happened over the last eight years. Of course it’s been a fantastic development. When I look back – which I do very, very rarely, looking back and pondering all those things that happened – but if one takes the time to consider it briefly, then it does seem like … a dream, genuinely.”

Eva: “And the great thing is, we did ask you a question at the time which you can only really answer today. Let’s have a look!”

(They show a recording of the earlier interview question:)

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Stefan: “Where do you see yourself in ten years?”

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David: “In ten years … I really do hope that I may continue to do what I do now, because – even though I travel a lot and am on the move so much – I really love my profession and have a lot of fun with it.”

Eva: “Yes! It worked out!”

Stefan: “It did work out.”

David: (nods and laughs) “It did work out … (jokingly) … dreams can come true!”

(They laugh)

Stefan: “Awesome! By the way, I have a cool story: I told my children, sometime at the start of the week, that David Guetta would be visiting. And they were like, oh really? That’s cool … So I say – nonsense, David Guetta (slaps his forehead) – it’s David Garrett who is coming! And do you know: My daughter, she’s fourteen, goes Waaaaaaah! – She was so much more enthusiastic …”

David: “Funnily enough, there’s a piece by David Guetta on my new album.”

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(He plays Dangerous)

Stefan: “Wicked!”

Eva: “Splendid!”

Stefan: “Now we have come full circle.”

Eva: “So it is! – Now you do pop music on the violin, so to speak – crossover …”

David: “I also do a lot of classical music. Just last night I played Brahms’s concerto here in Düsseldorf, with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and Christoph Eschenbach – the cream of the crop – and I did like … I’m naturally having a great time, covering both realms.”

Eva: “Which do you prefer?“

David: “Ahem, well – both of them are demanding, of course, if you want to do it well. Playing Brahms is no mean feat, and to continually develop one’s career, to play with really good musicians, good orchestras, good conductors – of course it is a great responsibility to be sound in this respect. Crossover is the area where I can realize my creativity. For my current album I was able to write original compositions myself, more than 80% of the material. I learned composition from scratch over a number of years in New York, then left my mark on arrangements but never did much composing myself. With this album, that is happening for the first time.”

Eva: “But how does it work? Do you call David Guetta to say, listen, I’d like to …”

David: “Well, this is one of the few covers, but it has to – of course this is done by the management – one does need consent to do this.”

Stefan: “It’s not that easy.”

Eva: “But he did know you, didn’t he?”

David: “He did, yes, most people know me by now. But it was complicated with Eminem. Of the four covers on the album, his Lose Yourself is one, because to me that is an epic number … and it really took until two days before the CD was released to get his permission, because he never allows any covers. So I’m one of only two people who ever did a cover of his material.”

Eva: “Cool!”

Stefan: “What would have happened if you had released the CD without his permission?”

David: “Well, one would have had to take it out at short notice.”

Stefan: “Seriously?”

David: “Absolutely. One has no wish to get involved in such court cases. I believe he has more money in his pocket than I do.” (Laughs)

Stefan: “Now a little bit of Questions-Bingo in between. We already had one question earlier.” 

(David picks another card and reads it out:)

“What was your nickname as a child?”

David: “As a child, I used to be … (laughs) … This is really embarrassing! … I was a little bit overweight, and they called me ‘pot belly’.”

Eva & Stefan: “Nooooo!”

David: “Sure! Kids can be cruel.”

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(They laugh)

David: (nodding) “In Kindergarten …”

Eva: “Truly horrible!”

David: “Oh, I’m over it.”

Eva: “Just about – but this is an issue which you then, if you were overweight as a child …”

David: “Not actually overweight, like a hundredweight – but I did have a bit of puppy fat.”

Eva: “But in Kindergarten all the kids are a little bit chubby, and surely that’s ok.”

David: “Well, not those who called me pot belly … (They laugh) … Impudence!”

(Stefan presents more question cards)

Eva: “One more!”

(David picks another card)

David: “So, what have we got? … Ah, this is a crucial question: ‘Is a kiss, of which no one will ever know, cheating?”

Eva: “You chose! There were other cards as well.”

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David: (laughing) “Can one hear the falling tree in the forest if no one is there? – I would say, yes!”

Eva: “Yes? Actually, this brings us directly to the Yellow Press, which I always read very attentively.”

Stefan: “She reads everything.”

David: “I don’t, not at all.”

Eva: “But once in a while, there is something about you in these papers, in the press …”

David: “I can’t comment. I don’t read these things, on principle.”

Eva: “Pity!”

David: “And even if I did read it, I would hold off, for I always think that private matters should really be private.”

Eva: “But these things do get spread out. One reads of people in your vicinity who disclose …”

David: “I can’t tell other people what they should or shouldn’t do. Anyhow, everybody should do what …”

Eva: “But doesn’t it hurt you in hindsight? Your ex-girlfriend did tell a bit to the press …”

David: “Nah, I’m a gentleman in this respect, I keep out of it.”

Eva: “Fine.”

Stefan: “Right, then we have to pose the next question. Holger writes, ‘Mr Garrett, you don’t limit yourself to classical music only, but rather interpret pop and rock pieces by other artists. What kind of feedback do you get from these colleagues?”

David: “Positive throughout. I did wonder at first, because I assumed that I’d get a nasty letter at some point, such as, ‘I really didn’t like it’. But I get truly positive feedback. Even Metallica got in touch once, I thought that was really great. Coldplay once sent me – because I had covered Viva la Vida and was on tour last year, and for Paradise I absolutely needed a bass line which I couldn’t find – and then they sent it to me and said, please use it, and so on … So, always very positive feedback.”

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Stefan: “It must of course be added that you have perfect hearing?”

David: “Yes.”

Stefan: “But you are really … your hearing is crazily good, now you are on so many big stages, and with such a thingy in your ear you hear an insane amount, and loud too …”

David: “But not when I’m playing Brahms.”

Stefan: “… doesn’t it all suffer in the course of time – people ask themselves, my God, the poor guy?“

David: “Ahem, well, let’s say that if I had to play every day for eight hours with such an in-ear … of course you get … I have to say, once in a while, when you’re playing in a really large hall and there is a lot of sound coming from the band behind you, and you have to turn up the volume to hear yourself, or rather the instrument – then you’ll walk away from the stage with a slight ringing in your ear. But thank God it passes eventually … (impishly) … That’s why I play so much classical music, of course – so that the ringing goes away again.”

Stefan: “But you’ll be in the Lanxess Arena in Cologne next year, you’ll have a big tour with a huge apparatus, you’ll have to play loudly – but it’s ok, you can hear … (with raised voice) … Can you still hear me?”

David: (pretending to be deaf) “What?”

(They laugh)

(At this point, there appears to be another bit missing from the interview recording)

David: “… It turned out to be a lovely piece. For this album, I had wanted to write a beautiful, emotional number, a little bit in the style of Disney – we come full circle again! – soundtracks like Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, or Frozen … and it was a kind of inspiration to write such a melody that really moves you.”

Both at once: “How …”

Stefan: (to Eva) “Did you want to ask the same question?”

Eva: “Yes, but I believe for different reasons than you! In fact, I wanted to know how you know Nicole [Scherzinger]. – He wanted to know that too!”

David: “At the time, when I wrote the soundtrack for the film I did about Paganini, I had also written something for her for this film, and so – that’s why we have known each other for a few years.”

Eva: (to Stefan) “I believe you wanted to ask David for her number.”

Stefan: (rapidly) “Nah, I wanted to ask where you got the violin from – but very well, this topic is now dealt with. Here we have a question from Andrea: ‘What do you do when you don’t happen to be playing the violin?’ – Look here, she has …”

David: “A photo of me.”

Stefan: (amazed) “Is that you?”

David: “Yes, it does look a lot like it.” (Chuckles)

Stefan: “On the right is David, on the left Andrea, Andrea Loehr …”

David: “So, what do you do when you don’t happen to be playing the violin?’ – Ahem, well, all the things every other person does. I see to it that I keep physically fit, of course, that I read the newspaper, that I continue to educate myself – it’s always good to read a book now and then – and of course I travel a lot. Meanwhile, much time is actually spent getting from A to B.”

Eva: “Speaking of reading the news: The terrorist attacks in Paris … the assassins stormed a concert hall too. As an artist, when you find yourself on stage, is it with a different feeling these days, do you approach it somehow differently?”

David: (pensively) “No … Yesterday, I was on stage in Düsseldorf … and you don’t actually think about it. Music is something I really love, it is my great passion. To waste any thought on what might happen, I think that would be … I really can’t live in fear as an artist, as a person. That would be awful, and those people must not be allowed to achieve this. Therefore, chin up and see to it that you live your life the way you want. That is, I believe, the main objective.”

Stefan: “We’re trying to do that too, and the circle completes itself inasmuch as we are once again planning something amazing at ‘Daheim & unterwegs’. Would you support us by signing this T-shirt?”

David: “Yes, if I may put down the violin for a moment … Ok, let’s do this properly, with a violin, so it fetches a little bit… (he is drawing on the T-shirt) … I assume it’s for a good cause.”

Stefan: “Indeed!”

David: (drawing) “In that case I’ll allow myself ten seconds.”

Stefan: “Sure! Take all the time you want.”

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Eva: “You can even draw …!”

David: “There, wham!”

Stefan: “Wow!”

Eva: “Cool!“

Stefan: (holds up the T-shirt to show David’s drawing and signature) “Look here, isn’t that brilliant? Thanks so much!”

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David: “I don’t know about brilliant, but …”

Eva: “The purpose is this: Once again we shall be doing a ‘Secret Santa’ in December, as we always do. People can call us, can receive a Secret Santa present – not for themselves, but for someone who is dear to them, who may have done something good for them, or whatever – simply people who are thinking of others. This T-shirt will be put into a Secret Santa parcel, and hopefully it will make someone very happy.”

(Stefan gives details of this campaign)

Stefan: “Finally, the most important question, (…) from André Fröhlich: ‘Where does David Garrett see himself in ten years?’”

David: “Here with you once again, I hope. It is really nice to find oneself invited back after eight years … invited to such lovely programmes, and I hope that this may still be the case in ten years; that I will be enjoying my profession as much as I do now, and still be healthy. This is of course very, very important – and yes, that is what I wish for.”

Eva: “Tell us: You know TV shows all over the world: Isn’t it nice, here, with us? Isn’t it the nicest?”

David: (with a charming smile) “Absolutely.”

Stefan: “Next year: David Garrett on tour, in the great halls everywhere in Germany – this afternoon here with us. Thank you very much indeed!”

David: “I am very happy to have met you again.”

Eva: “Thanks a lot, so are we.”

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Stefan: “And don’t forget your violin!”

***

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David Garrett’s Audience

An attempted Analysis of a Musical Phenomenon – Part 14

Does the title conjure visions of screaming girls in your mind? Crowds of female fans in a frenzy of passionate adoration, such as the world witnessed repeatedly since the heyday of Elvis, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and others? Yet, as far as I can see, there is not a single video of David Garrett’s events on YouTube that shows such scenes. Some might argue that he obviously can’t compare with Elvis, the Beatles or the Rolling Stones. Others might reply that they have nothing on him.

Be that as it may, David appears to have more than enough of whatever it is that might make girls scream. But the people who come to his shows, including love-struck girls, are remarkably restrained in their behaviour, especially in Europe. Adoring, yes – but also respectful; shy even. Overawed, it seems. By contrast, the Latin American countries provide his noisiest, most exuberant audiences, according to David’s own words. Videos of concerts in South America and Mexico record a lot of background noise as people chat, sing along, laugh, or call out in their enthusiasm, and the occasional “I love you!” is clearly heard above the din.

David Garrett’s critics like to suggest that his audiences must be mindless, uneducated, unmusical masses who have fallen easy prey to clever marketing strategies because they “could not tell a C major chord from a car horn”. But David, who has personal and direct impressions of the individuals who make up those crowds, speaks highly of his fans. The affection, respect and gratitude he shows them does not pass unnoticed. Letters, cards and gifts are heaped on him wherever he goes. And, as YouTube comments show, David’s fans are at least as intelligent, literate and musically sensitive as his critics:

“David is my hero, and the hero of other open-minded violinists. He has drawn so many people of all ages to classical music and to the violin. At his concerts, children sit completely mesmerized by the passion he brings to his music and the manner in which he reveals the full range of what is possible in playing the violin. His lovely, pleasant, open manner is so endearing and creates a wonderful concert experience.” – “Whether playing the classics or pop-rock tunes, he rocks! No other musician brings together people of all ages to appreciate such a wide spectrum of musical styles.”

05 Looking at DG

These days, David Garrett’s audiences are a mix of all ages and come in several sizes: moderate, large, extra-large, huge and enormous. The moderate-sized are usually classical concerts in beautiful architectural settings, such as traditional concert halls or even the occasional church. But his crossover shows use vastly more technical equipment and draw much larger crowds, filling supersized arenas to the brim. In neither case, however, are screaming girls in evidence.

2015 Enescu Festival 7

2012 Hannover (2)

The front rows tend to be occupied by loyal fans who have the time and the means to follow David from concert to concert and have sometimes been doing so for years. They have become experts on his shows, his life and his music through long-time study and observation, and the reward for their passionate interest is the beam of his luminous smile as it sweeps them during their standing ovation at the end.

04 Looking at DG

“Absolut genial! Die pure Freude, die David Garrett empfindet, springt sofort über und bleibt im Herzen. Ich juble Dir zu, mit einem ganz großen DANKESCHÖN!” – (“Absolute genius! The pure joy David Garrett feels sparks across and stays in the heart. I hail you with a great big THANK YOU!”) – “Dear David, all my respect to you with love for the beautiful music and energy that you give to people.”

09 Looking at DG

Pensioners, young couples, parents with children, music students, music teachers, teenagers and middle-aged women seem to mix equably as they fill row upon row of huge auditoriums and arenas. And as the cameras pan across their faces and pick out a few close-ups, they capture that same look of quiet reverence we already encountered on the faces of David’s interviewers on talk shows as he plays for them:

01 Looking at DG

It is a calm, a wondering look, captivated by the sight this beautiful musician offers to the eye; and an enchantment, a marvelling at the soothing or sparkling sounds he coaxes from his violin at will.

02 Looking at DG

Touched by such grace, the delighted stillness on each face becomes a mirror of that beauty, rather as the calm surface of a pool would reflect the brilliance of a star. Screaming would shatter that mirroring, this reflection and wonderment, like a rock.

03 Looking at DG

“Dear David, stay right with your feet on the ground, then you will be someone who never will be forgotten. For my wife and me you are the BEST violinist.” – “Wonderfully played, just beautiful! And that contagious joyousness of his playing, one would like to join in directly.” – “A great performance by an outstanding musician. I love his passion when playing the violin.” 

Over the years, David has learnt to overcome his initial shyness and has discovered and developed a talent for engaging with his audience. Although he claimed repeatedly in interviews that he really dislikes going on stage, one would never guess. He seems so perfectly at home up there, owning the space, the show, the love of the multitude – and he knows how to give them a fantastic time too. Whether a piece is calm or lively, classical or contemporary, contemplative or explosive, well-known or new: with consummate skill, David Garrett entices his listeners to celebrate MUSIC in different forms. He radiates pure joy as he plays, and that joy is reflected in each individual member of his audience, many thousand souls strong, at each event in turn.

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2012 Hannover 14 Let it be

What a great gift and skill it is to be able to do this! It calls to my mind Morgan Freeman’s lines in the moving film The Bucket List. “You know, the Ancient Egyptians had a beautiful belief about death. When their souls got to the entrance of heaven, the guards asked two questions, and their answers determined whether they were able to enter or not:  ‘Have you found joy in your life?’ and ‘Has your life brought joy to others?’”

Well, David will be able to answer with a resounding yes both times. He clearly loves what he does, is aware of his privilege and willing, for the sake of it, to take the strain of a life on the road, thereby sacrificing almost everything that makes up a normal adult life. But then, what is really so great about a normal adult life? Who wouldn’t willingly trade with him if it were at all possible? … Surely even those guards at the entrance of heaven will want his autograph.

Driven by his purpose, his ideas and intentions, David Garrett has hit the fast lane and shows no signs of slowing down. His loyal fans see it with mixed feelings. On the one hand they can’t get enough of him, but on the other they worry about his health. Does he get enough rest? Does he look after himself? More importantly still, does his management? Every pound lost or kilogram gained is immediately noted and widely discussed, his life examined and possible reasons scrutinized: Such is the price of fame and success.

***

We come, at last, to David Garrett’s Beauty. If you click ‘follow blog via email’ you won’t miss it.
To leave your comment, please click on the little orange ‘comments’ link next to the date, at the top of each article. This will open a box for you to write in, below the other comments. (After posting, your words will disappear from sight until they have been approved.) Apparently this tiny link is not user-friendly, for there have been questions repeatedly on how to leave a comment. So I hope this helps, because I love to hear from 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’s Film

An attempted Analysis of a Musical Phenomenon – Part 13

Having begun to explore the topic of David Garrett as a musician (via YouTube only) and having heard him speak about The Devil’s Violinist in interviews and onstage, it became of course important to take a look at this film, even though it is long past newsworthy and everybody has had their say about it. The reviews I scanned beforehand were scathing, but I kept an open mind and formed my own opinion.

Jumping right in, it seems to me that this film struggles with a fundamental problem: namely with the fact that the moment David Garrett appears on screen – and he is never absent for very long – he is much more fascinating than Paganini. My interest in the actor blots out my interest in the character he portrays, and unfortunately the story never comes to Paganini’s rescue. Garrett vs. Paganini is the title of the CD that goes with The Devil’s Violinist, and Garrett versus Paganini could well be the programmatic title of what goes on in this film.

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It seems that many critics have put the blame for the fact that it cannot be regarded as a successful movie squarely on David Garrett’s lack of acting skills. My impression is that another director could and would have made more of his potential. Given the fact that he is not an actor, why does he get so little help from the staging and the camera? Why is it that in more than one scene he has to act in a gruesome emotional vacuum, surrounded by extras that might as well be statues? Where he has to provide all the life, the action, the emotion – and all by himself?

I am thinking of that ghastly scene where he – no, Paganini – gambles his violin away. Or the soirée at his own casino in Paris, a setting that has all the lively ambiance of a morgue; reminiscent of badly-staged school plays, but entirely without their charm. Surely even professional actors might struggle in such unhelpful surroundings? But despite it all, the reason why large numbers of people love this film and have watched it repeatedly and with pleasure must be the fact that David Garrett is involved, whatever the views of his acting.

YouTube fan comments: “The Devil’s Violinist is a great movie. Must see.” – “Magnifica pelicula, me enamore.” – ” It’s really an amazing movie, though truly sad! ” – “David Garrett is a very talented violinist but an actor he is not. Although I liked this movie.” – “It’s not that bad, actually, and David plays all the pieces. He is quite amazing.” – “If you like classical music, play an instrument and like to see hot guys, this is the movie for you!” – “As a fan of violin music I enjoyed it.” – “Paganini saying that everything he is and feels and wants to be he puts into the music … well, that sounds like David Garrett!” – “The story was garbage, the only scenes that were captivating were when he actually played.” – “Simplesmente divino, simplesmente David Garrett!” – “The movie really gets to your emotions!” – “Totally love this, watching with a big smile plastered on my face. How can you not fall in love with this German human … my oh my!” – “Love it, gave the movie 5 stars. David is awesome.” – “La escena que me hizo llorar ¡Felicidades! excelente película.” – “Such a masterful violinist and so inspiring to watch and listen to.” – “I love this movie!” – “I just discovered David from watching The Devil’s Violinist. Wow. Great movie, and even greater performances by David Garrett.” 

Take him away, and the film crumbles to insignificance. Yet David’s involvement does cause a problem, simply through the personality clash of Paganini and Garrett. Despite all the things they have in common, David gets in the way of his character big time and through no fault of his own, for the Devilish Violinist was by all accounts a sombre, torn and driven individual of questionable morals and seriously bad health. David Garrett, however, appears to be none of these things. He radiates soundness of character and wholesome healthiness even on his – no, Paganini’s – supposed deathbed, and I strongly suspect that Niccolò did not possess the light of kindness that is so particular to David’s eyes. Garrett is too nice a person to portray a demonic Paganini credibly, and of course we would not have it any other way. He cannot but give the impression that Paganini was a decent, kindly man who wanted to do the right thing and cared deeply about those he loved (the mother of his child, then his son, and later Charlotte) but was beset by misfortune and bedevilled by the unfortunate company he kept.

Could this problem have been foreseen? Certainly, though likely not by David. If only someone had talked him out of playing the lead part himself! Have him write the film music by all means, let him play it of course, double the performance scenes and have close-ups of his fingers whizzing along the strings. But let the face and figure of Paganini be that of an unknown actor with suitably haggard mien and dark looks, of scraggy build and “with the movements of a monkey” … Only then might Paganini have stood a chance.

David stated in interviews that he thought it a problem if the actor who played a musician was not a proficient musician himself. Yet there is evidence to the contrary. It worked very well for Ladies in Lavender, where Joshua Bell provided his musical skill while Daniel Brühl, who had never touched a violin before, portrayed a violinist very credibly. It worked for Amadeus and Tom Hulce who, although no pianist, looked so believable at the instrument. It was a masterstroke of inspired casting. Hulce was unknown to us, so we easily accepted that he could be Mozart, and the marvellous medium of make-believe did the rest. Both script and production of Amadeus never allowed for one moment of doubt, even where we knew the story to depart from the actual facts of Mozart’s life. The Devil’s Violinist could have done for Paganini what Amadeus did for Mozart, but sadly it falls a long way short of that achievement.

Why did Seven Years in Tibet work so well, even though the casting of Brad Pitt as Heinrich Harrer presented much the same problem that Garrett and Paganini face? Pitt is so much more real and appealing to us than Harrer. We never quite manage to see the one as the other and may come away with the impression that it was indeed Brad Pitt who taught the Dalai Lama the ways of the Western World. But the story is told in such a captivating way, it never makes us question its veracity for a moment.

Not so The Devil’s Violinist. That script suffers from a whole palette of ills. An underlying hurriedness does not allow Paganini’s story to develop visually. The narrative relies too often on snatches of conversation that seem contrived. Many scenes are shorthand for some important part of Paganini’s life, but we hardly ever get to see what we are told. On top of that, pretty much every scene is showing us an uncomfortable or unhappy situation. There is no balance, no pause of an enjoyable nature, and so the viewer is soon enveloped in a shroud of dejection as a sinking feeling of dread invades him like that dense London smog.

Excepting those far-too-few moments when David Garrett plays the violin and the scene suddenly comes alive. What Garrett can do with the tune of God save the King has to be heard to be believed. To me, it is easily the highlight of the film. Here, a true musician speaks music, straight from the heart and with heartrending skill. This tune we know so well – one might say too well – is taken apart and, simultaneously, put together new in those chords, while our ear is bound expectantly to each moment as we anticipate each successive bar’s new revelation with delight.

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It is spectacular, dazzling, sensational – and it almost makes me forget to wonder if a theatre full of British subjects would really have remained silent in the presence of their King. Wouldn’t they all have been singing the anthem? Wasn’t it mandatory at the time, a matter of etiquette? … If a story is well told, such questions do not arise in the viewer’s mind, but in the course of this film they pop up with disturbing regularity.

David Garrett: “You can’t make everybody happy. Here’s the thing: So far, I haven’t read anything negative about the music, and for me that was the real reason why I did this project. And if nobody’s attacking the music, I’m totally fine … (impish grin) … I never said I’m Al Pacino. But, you know … if people enjoy the music, then I did a good job.”

We surely do enjoy it. How could we not? But there is not nearly enough of Garrett’s playing. That supposedly central topic of the film, the musical dimension of Paganini’s genius, is hardly explored at all. We learn more about Paganini’s innovations to the playing of the violin from David Garrett’s interviews than from this film, and so The Devil’s Violinist remains a study of Garrett as Paganini, not of Paganini as a musician. It gives the impression that Paganini managed to have just one successful concert in London, was jailed afterwards for failing to seduce a minor, was miserable and unsuccessful in Paris, and then retired to Italy a broken man, to write down his music with rapidly failing health and strength. Wikipedia, amongst other sources, tells a different and more plausible story.

A pervading lack of plausibility blights the script of The Devil’s Violinist. Take an early scene, for example, where Paganini is seen asleep in a hotel room he has not yet paid for, with a woman next to him. The hotel manager bursts in rudely and makes trouble, followed by the mysterious Urbani who will, a few moments later, be asking Paganini to sign away his soul for international success.

But instead of being captivated by the unfolding story, my mind gets sidetracked by questions. Would an experienced hotel manager really walk in on a sleeping guest and expect to be paid on the spot? It hardly seems likely. And: David Garrett in bed – and not alone? … Even though I am trying hard to pretend that it is indeed Paganini I’m seeing here, this pretence dissolves under the pleading look on his face as he urges his lady not to leave. Whatever I expect of Paganini, it is not such tender commitment to his lover. And in this match of Garrett vs. Paganini, it is Garrett who wins the first round hands down.

Urbani then makes a credible push to lay before us the difficulties of Paganini’s position as an indigent musician whom nobody appreciates and who cannot do without managerial assistance. At this point, the story could really begin to roll. I am ready to suspend my disbelief once more and to get involved in Paganini’s life – were it not for the fact that the camera is now showing us the inviting expanse of David’s bare back. For an instant this is of course delightful, but the next moment I ask myself why this particular angle was chosen. Because it doesn’t help David, and it certainly doesn’t help Paganini, who has just lost the second round to Garrett … Regarding the quality of a movie, it is never a good sign should the viewer begin to think about camera angles.

Later, when Paganini embraces his little son, we see what David Garrett might be like, one day, as a father, and our hearts melt collectively. Who still thinks of Paganini at this point? And so it goes, scene after scene – game, set and match to Garrett. Poor Paganini never stands a chance.

And there is always some detail that raises questions and prevents me from becoming fully immersed in the story. Example? Though I am just about willing, for the story’s sake, to accept that Watson’s graceful and pretty young daughter must double as a servant – though it goes without saying that no husband’s wife would ever have hired her – it troubles me to see all these men standing by and looking idly on as she heaves supposedly heavy luggage up the stairs by herself. Yes, it was an age of exploitation, but also one of chivalry … And while these doubts assail my mind, I cannot help but notice that a trunk of this size must necessarily be empty if such a slight girl is to carry it at all.

Or this: Urbani is trying to persuade, nay bribe the girl with the offer of a necklace so hideous it would not tempt a shortsighted magpie. Why he whispers “perfection” when she dumps it into the pasta remains a mystery. And no one seems to care that Garrett’s – no, Paganini’s – dinner is getting cold.

Oh, this Urbani! He is strikingly played by Jared Harris and appears to be a resourceful man. But this wily Mephisto to Paganini’s Faust soon reveals two fundamental flaws. Firstly, though his entrance is designed to make us believe that he has a connection with the supernatural – “It must be said three times!” – this is strangely also the last time any occult powers are alluded to. Secondly, although he has pledged to support Paganini’s career to the end (for the price of an immortal soul, no less) and has himself insisted on a written contract to this purpose, he is then seen to sabotage that career at almost every turn. Consequently, his actions not only obstruct Paganini’s success, but also my acceptance of the basic assumption this story builds upon.

Can there be any logic in taking Paganini away from his home in Vienna to develop his career abroad, only to turn the strident ladies of the Moral Strength League against him? What can possibly be the point of Urbani’s mission to make his protégé a raging success in London if he then sets off the Langham torpedo? Surely this constitutes a major breach of contract on his part? What is going on here? – Certainly nothing that sheds any light on the historical Paganini.

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Then there is the puzzling matter of Charlotte’s and Garrett’s – no, Paganini’s – involvement. At first, Urbani attempts (in Charlotte’s own, disgusted words) to make her Paganini’s whore. But when she is at last ready to fall into his arms and his bed, Urbani intervenes with his habitual inconsistency and actually saves her from social ruin, disgrace and syphilis. Why, why, why? Does this make any sense at all?

While I am pondering this question, Paganini flees the country. His seemingly brief success is never resumed, at least not in this film, and neither is my interest in the story.

If a film does not work, it is the director who must accept responsibility. And this film does not work, no matter how much I would like it to. Now, Bernard Rose is a director who does not believe in rehearsals. He tells us so in the DVD’s bonus features interview, where he opines that it is practically always the first take that is the best. Though this may be a valid concept for film-making in theory, it does nothing for The Devil’s Violinist. Maybe it could work if the script were excellent, but who wrote the script? Ah, Bernard Rose. And who was responsible for the unhelpful camera work? The very same.

How David Garrett came to terms with an approach that is so opposed to his own working style (preparation, practice, and yet more practice) is anyone’s guess. He took care of the music and the instruments with careful attention to historic detail, therefore that side of it all is convincing. The film music is moving, his incredibly virtuosic playing truly astounding – but what good does all the attention to violins with gut strings and without tuners do if one of the characters then refers to the music industry? Would that term really have been used in the days of Charles Dickens, with the Industrial Revolution only just gathering steam? – With a mind full of doubt and dismay I find myself jolted off the story’s track once again.

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And it is not the last time something or someone makes me think, hang on, could it really have happened in this way, at that time? Would a young girl of the age really have sat down unchaperoned with a stranger – and on his bed? … Goodness gracious! It was not to be thought of! Being alone with any man who was not a close relation meant social ruin and was certainly not allowed by parents hoping to see their daughter respectably married one day. Nor would any decent girl, such as this Charlotte, have considered it.

Regrettably, David mispronounces Charlotte’s name repeatedly. It is a peculiarity of the English language that even native speakers need to be taught the correct pronunciation of certain words and names, for English spelling so likes to leave the narrow path of logic for a frolic in the undergrowth of the fanciful. A real challenge to us foreigners! Who knew how to pronounce Sean before Connery, or Hermione before Harry Potter? So, in case you are wondering: the Ch in Charlotte is not that of Charles, charm and chocolate. It sounds like sharp or shallow. This is a minor issue of course, and surely the director could have eliminated it with ease – though it may have required a second take.

Then there is the character of Ethel Langham, a woman who struts onto the scene as if she had just stepped out of a time machine with a Black Belt in Feminism. Unfortunately for her, the style of this pre-Victorian age, following on from Jane Austen’s novels, has been adapted for television and film so often and with such a high degree of attention to historic accuracy that we now sense when something isn’t true to the manners and morals of the time. Something in this case being a brash, modern woman in a top hat, supposedly employed by that bastion of traditionalism, The Times. – Oh, really? I don’t believe it for a moment.

A bit of quick research later reveals that The first female full-time employed journalist in Fleet Street was Eliza Lynn Linton, who was employed by The Morning Chronicle from 1848.” To wit, nearly twenty years later. She would certainly not have been influential in any meaningful sense of the word. Also: “Top hats were never intended to be worn by women.” Would such a male-dominated society have allowed it outside the cabaret? Extremely doubtful!

It seems that Bernard Rose is trying to rewrite history and present us with a version of Dickensian England that suits his taste better, but this hidden agenda interferes with the main concern of the film. Another example: Lord Burghersh, patron of the opera, is shown at his club and at the concert in the company of a young, pretty man who is clearly not his son. The impression conveyed is certainly not that homosexuality was regarded as a sin and a crime at the time, was illegal and punishable by death, and was therefore kept hidden in all circles of society. Quote: “80 men were hung for this offence in Great Britain between 1800 and 1834, when this punishment was replaced with life imprisonment.”

Then there are the largely deserted, squeaky-clean city streets which (although Watson mimes stepping into something unpleasant) never manage to convince that we are getting a glimpse of a real, living environment, despite the sad and lonely prostitute positioned specifically to tell us about the seedier side of London. Twice, in case we missed the point the first time.

And so on … The Devil’s Violinist, a film that should be all about music and the story of a great musician, is sabotaged by too many deficits apparent in the telling of it. Its characters, even the lovely John Watson and his daughter, are made into clichéd caricatures of themselves. Those sex scenes seem trite and superfluous. The CGI sunset over the docks makes one scan the scene for the easel of Mr William Turner, who must surely be about to sketch The Fighting Temeraire at that very moment … Oh, it is all so distracting, so aimless – and sadly also pointless.

The only visually redeeming feature of this film is that we get to watch David Garrett for two entire hours and see him perform some incredible violin pieces in costume. But don’t we feel sorry for him throughout? He is suffering so much – from ill health, from illicit love, from abandonment, heartbreak and general misfortune – and he never gets a chance to be the driving force I expected Paganini to be in this tale of his life.

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So, all in all, my impression is this: Viewed from a perspective of passionate DG-fandom, the film probably can’t fail to delight. But when considered in the light of the laws of storytelling and movie-making, it fails to convince.

And yet I am certain that an angle could be found to make the elements of Paganini, his music, the violin and Garrett a successful combination, though I suspect it would take a more unconventional approach than a historically questionable costume drama to achieve it. Since it is so interesting to hear David Garrett talk about the history of violin playing, about music in general and Paganini in particular – why not have him tell the story of the devilish violinist to the camera, adding some of the better myths for good measure, between giving commented demonstrations of Paganini’s ground-breaking inventions on the instrument?

David is a natural entertainer and therefore an inspirational teacher. No acting required. No love story either. Who would not want to watch as he explains and demonstrates each Caprice and Concerto in turn? In this way, our interest in Garrett would serve Paganini well, and the focus would be on his MUSIC. It would no longer be a matter of Garrett versus Paganini, but of Garrett for Paganini … and I imagine it would be a triumph for them both.

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To be continued with David Garrett’s Audience. If you click ‘follow blog via email’ you won’t miss it.
To leave your comment, please click on the little orange ‘comments’ link next to the date, at the top of each article. This will open a box for you to write in, below the other comments. (After posting, your words will disappear from sight until they have been approved.) Apparently this tiny link is not user-friendly, for there have been questions repeatedly on how to leave a comment. So I hope this helps, because I love to hear from you …

(All photographs are screenshots 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’s Your Song Serenade

An attempted Analysis of a Musical Phenomenon – Part 12

You too may have seen YouTube footage of Your Song from David Garrett’s Classic Revolution tour, where at each event in turn he serenades a girl, selected by his manager from the audience, with Elton John’s famous love song. Did you like it? Or did you think it a cheesy stunt, thought up by an event manager eager to capitalize on David’s great appeal to women, the PR intention behind it blatantly obvious? I confess that I did. Nevertheless, David’s playful charm and joyful playing transform even this chaff to gold, and the audience loves it.

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“Ich würde sterben vor Glück!” – “Yo lo hubiera abrazado y nunca lo hubiera soltado!” – “I’m not a teenager anymore, but I’m afraid I might have pissed my pants if he did this to me.” – A mí me hace eso y mínimo lo abrazo, mínimo me muero, mínimo grito, mínimo lloro.” – Oh my GOD! How lucky this girl and I’m so sorry that I was not in her place!” – “Qué envidia y de la buena. Ella seguramente se siente en el paraíso.” – He is amazing. I would like to be in this girl’s place.” – “Ich würde ja vom Stuhl kippen.” – Oh, you LUCKY LUCKY girl!!!!” – “Ich glaube ich wäre in Ohnmacht gefallen.” – “Me han roto el corazón.” – I would give so much money to be her!” – “Waren bestimmt die schönsten 4 Minuten ihres Lebens. Ich würde dafür 10 Tode sterben!” – “She’s so lucky to be so near to him!” – Qué bonito … que trauma a la vez, yo quieroooo.” – Er fährt aber Charmegeschütze auf! Zauberhaft! Danke!” – “A mí me hace eso y te juro por mi madre santa que me puedo morir en paz.” – “He is awesome … And so sweet!!!!”

Numerous fans seem to regard this serenade as a celebration of romance, not as a concise portrayal of the contrived nature of all that is commonly regarded as romantic. Ah, Romance! Isn’t it so like women to set their hearts on settings in which there can be no truth?

Why do I find this routine disturbing when it delights so many? It must be because of the stark inequality written into this setup. On the one hand we have a masterly serenade by that adored star violinist, and on the other a random girl who wishes with all her heart that she were really his love and this act were genuine. But they both know it isn’t. To him, this knowledge is liberating and allows him to do his radiant best. To her, it is painful and restricting. While he is playing this beautiful love song to her, she is riveted to a chair in the glare of the spotlight. Thousands of eyes are glued to her face, enlarged on a huge screen behind her. No emotion remains hidden as she makes up her mind just how much of her inner life she is willing to share with the world. And all the while, David is playing his violin so joyfully, so flirty, so adorably – just as if Cupid himself were using her defenceless heart for target practice.

He is secure in his role, but she has no security, and no such role to cling to. In her life, this special moment is like a shooting star, here and gone in the blink of an eye. But for David and his team it is all part of the show, a routine repeated almost identically in Hamburg and Düsseldorf, in Lübeck and Nuremberg, in Magdeburg and Munich, in Rome and Vienna, in Verona, Milano, Moscow, Monterrey and Sao Paolo … And this is not a comprehensive list, you understand. This is just to give you some idea of the scope.

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But what about the girl, picked from obscurity for her photogenic looks and now doing her best to keep her composure? How does she cope with the sudden, searing nearness of her idol? Or with the fact that he is, for a few unforgettable moments, actually looking at her as if she were the girl of his dreams? That she suddenly feels his arm about her, leans her head on his shoulder, receives a light kiss on the side of her face … In the words of a fan: “If he did that to me, I’d die.”

The attention of the audience is focused on the girl. Her attention is focused on him. His attention is necessarily focused on his performance, as ever with complete commitment to the music. David doesn’t miss a beat and he hits no wrong notes, for his heart is unaffected. Despite the fact that he makes it look so damn easy, he is actually working, and the girl is just a pretty prop. She knows from the start that none of her natural, heartfelt responses can have a place here, and so she spends the entire time fighting them. She may hide her feelings in Germany, look for ways to express them in Russia, or fight tears of emotion in Italy. She knows she is privileged. But isn’t it a teeny-tiny bit like the privilege of an early Christian tossed to the lions for the amusement of the crowd? The whole scenario seems cruel to me, though of course it has considerable entertainment value.

I imagine that the painful joy of this experience will live in her memory for years to come, after she has received that final, gallant peck on the cheek and been waved back into the audience. How many nights will she be sobbing into her pillow, trying to recapture the magic of those moments? How often will she dream of him and long for what she knows to be impossible? What other man can hope to make her heart beat quite like it did then? How does she resume her former life?

Maybe I am wrong to be concerned. Maybe these girls really are able to take it all as the bit of lighthearted fun it is meant to be. Maybe they really don’t mind having their feelings played with in this way. Maybe they smile to themselves as they fall asleep, thinking what a lucky, lucky girl they are. After all, everyone tells them so. Maybe they feel they have been given a precious gift, to be treasured to the end of their days. And maybe it won’t interfere with their life, with their future love life, at all. I hope they don’t mind …

“I would have thrown my arms around him and never let him go,” comments one fan in ardent Spanish. But what would happen then? Think about it! Perceived as a threat to the precious violin, if not to him, such an impulsive girl would be dragged off instantly by the security team, in disgrace. And spoiling his show is not the way to David’s heart. This much we may safely assume. Another fan points out that this part of David’s performance must be hurtful to his girlfriend and that she could not be happy about it. It is surely a moot point. After all, this is just a show, staged for wide appeal and entertainment, and any girlfriend of David’s would have to know and accept it.

Other comments have suggested that these girls are not randomly picked at all but are part of the Garrett Team, or personal friends of his manager. But, observing the girls’ faces, it does seem they were unprepared for what was about to hit them. As David asks their name, where they come from and if they attend his show for the first time, there is a slight awkwardness in the exchange that would be hard to pretend. And surely even David Garrett’s team could not be made up of that many beautiful young women, for – excepting Carla from Spain, who was picked twice and set off all that speculation about how random these volunteers really are – it is indeed a different girl every time. So watch the footage and make up your own mind.

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By the way, David’s favourite seems to have been that classy young lady in Sao Paolo. She appears to be the only one about whom he made an indirect, appreciative comment after she had left the stage. But the one that touched me most is that sweet girl in Moscow who remained lively and natural in difficult circumstances. I hope she is recovering well … I hope they all are.

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To be continued with David Garrett’s Film. If you click ‘follow blog via email’ you won’t miss it.
To leave your comment, please click on the little orange ‘comments’ link next to the date, at the top of each article. This will open a box for you to write in, below the other comments. (After posting, your words will disappear from sight until they have been approved.) Apparently this tiny link is not user-friendly, for there have been questions repeatedly on how to leave a comment. So I hope this helps, because I love to hear from 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.) 


17 Comments

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.

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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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To be continued with David Garrett and the Critics. If you click ‘follow blog via email’ you won’t miss it.

(The 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. The photo of Franck and David was shared on Facebook. Unfortunately I did not make a note of the source at the time, so I am grateful for any helpful hints regarding the author of this great image.) 


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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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To be continued with David Garrett and the Guys. If you click ‘follow blog via email’ you won’t miss it. And please leave a comment below. I do appreciate 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!


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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.

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.)