The Solo Traveller's View


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David Garrett’s Beauty

An attempted Analysis of a Musical Phenomenon – Part 15

Early on in your life you recognized beauty in all its forms as an expression of the divine, like truth and goodness. You admired beauty in the natural world, where it is easily found. You searched for beauty in man-made artefacts and the many guises of culture. But what touched you most of all was human beauty in appearance and character; and you became aware that, in people, true beauty is a rare and precious thing.

Though you have long searched for human beauty and encountered it before, even in the faces of men, not one ever showed such a high degree of perfection. This, a quiet voice sings in the depths of your mind – this is the face you have been waiting to see, without knowing. Now it has appeared within the radius of your awareness, its existence cannot be ignored. Like a temple that housed the ancient gods of Greece it must be built upon the pleasing proportions of the golden ratio, where every point, line and plane adds to the harmonious beauty of the whole and there is no angle that lessens its appeal.

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“Este hombre es una de las cosas más hermosas que he visto.” – “The most beautiful and talented man in the universe. ” – “You are the most beautiful thing in the world when you are playing.” – “Tant de beauté … simplement extatique!” – “What beauty – without words.” – “Esse homem ilumina minha vida!” – “Quelle merveille de la nature, ce garçon!” – “In my eyes he’s perfection!”  – “Aquí está el hombre más hermoso del mundo!” – “He is absolutely beautiful.”

Helen of Sparta (and later of Troy) must have had such an effect on men as the most beautiful woman of her time. Is it any wonder that similar archetypal beauty in a man should put females of all nations and ages into a spin? Well, at least they will not be starting a ten-year war on the pretext of his abduction …

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Although David Garrett comes in the guise of a very contemporary, very likeable boyish man, you sometimes perceive in him a quality reminiscent of the heroes of history and legend. Yes, thankfully he is a musician and not a warrior – but, seeing him, you understand what moved Homer to sing in praise of Achilles. And is there not a touch of that same strong, personal appeal that must have compelled homesick and footsore soldiers to follow the great Alexander beyond the boundaries of the known world? Is it not what J. R. R. Tolkien describes so exquisitely when he tells us of Aragorn’s death: an impression that we are seeing something that goes a long way beyond the ordinary? And Tolkien tells us this in a sequence of words as beautiful as a perfect piece of music:

Then a great beauty was revealed in him, so that all who after came there looked on him with wonder; for they saw the grace of his youth, and the valour of his manhood, and the wisdom and majesty of his age were all blended together. And long there he lay, an image of the splendour of the Kings of Men, in glory undimmed before the breaking of the world.”

A great longing for noble beauty in men (removed from mere sexual allure) runs like a golden thread through Tolkien’s writing. He may have been driven to invent the striking beauty of his heroes because he could not find it in real life. And because the longing for such beauty is echoed in all human souls, his work had such tremendous impact and still means so much to so many.

So does David Garrett, it seems. Yet his beauty is not invented. He lives his life encased in an appearance that, we may assume, can be both helpful and a hindrance at times. Helpful, because such beauty opens doors and hearts and makes him a welcome guest, friend, lover and companion. A hindrance, because it may get in the way of what lies beneath, of what he wants to express, maybe even of being taken seriously at times. And of course it gives rise to jealousy and hate as well as admiration and love.

2013 3 Haselnüsse für Aschenbrödel 12

Few faces are as well documented as David Garrett’s, and with good reason. Do you know which German personage has been most often portrayed in history? No, it is not the evil leader. It is Martin Luther, who, although not beautiful, was a great inspiration to his times and to those that followed. Yet in this age of photography and film it seems likely that David will soon take over Luther’s leading position – if he has not already done so. But who is counting?

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Whatever situation David finds himself in, his beauty is there with him like a presence in itself. It sets him apart. And though he might like to disregard it and just be, be like other people, few will be able to pretend that he is. Because, whichever way you look at David, ordinary just isn’t part of his makeup.

It must be quite a task to come to terms with such an extraordinary condition; not unlike the very rich, who cannot know whether they are liked for their own sake or for their wealth. Experiencing himself from the inside only, David Garrett will probably never fully understand how his appearance affects the viewer, will never quite realize the devastation he may be causing unwittingly. Because to others, being a witness of such beauty can at times be painful. Why this pain, you ask yourself. Where does it stem from? Here’s a question not easily answered, yet Homer’s famous statement in the Iliad, “Beauty! Terrible Beauty! A deathless goddess – so she strikes our eyes …” proves that, however rare, it is not an unprecedented experience.

David Garrett’s face has been captured in many different looks as it matures through the years, and its changeable quality shows a surprising variety of aspects. After that first impact which took your breath away has faded, you notice with relief that one can, in time, grow more accustomed to his looks. Yet unexpectedly there will come a moment, an angle, a turn of his head, a portrayed smile that will stop you cold – and once again you will be catching your breath, wide-eyed and wondering. And no, this isn’t a matter of choice. Because it hurts. As that terrible goddess strikes your eyes, you find your awareness pierced with pain. But it is the pain that digs the well which joy fills, as a Middle Eastern saying tells us.

“Then a woman said, ‘Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow.’ 
And he answered: Your joy is your sorrow unmasked. And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears. And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain. Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven? And is not the lute that soothes your spirit the very wood that was hollowed with knives?
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow, that is giving you joy. When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.
Some of you say, ‘Joy is greater than sorrow,’ and others say, ‘Nay, sorrow is the greater.’ But I say unto you, they are inseparable. Together they come, and when one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep upon your bed. Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy. Only when you are empty are you at a standstill and balanced. When the treasure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your joy or your sorrow rise or fall.” – Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

This beautiful paragraph may yet be the best answer to the question why the beauty that delights us also causes pain and sorrow. But David will not be aware of it, and it is surely best this way. Such an awareness would be too uncomfortable a burden to bear, and we want him to remain lighthearted and untroubled, doing what he does best: his MUSIC. Because, first and foremost, he is a source of shared delight; the joy that fills the well of those very souls touched by and aching with his beauty.

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David Garrett has been gifted with an unusual degree of personal appeal, with a happy disposition and prodigious talent. But to turn that natural disposition into a good person, and to develop this talent to skill of the highest level – that is his own achievement. And, by way of fair exchange, the gift he returns to the world is his music: beauty for beauty.

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We, looking on in admiration, feel gratitude for the fact that we may witness this beauty, feel this sorrow and this joy, and be moved by this music; for it reminds us of the grace of being alive, and of having good things to live for.

With these thoughts my series of articles comes to an end. It has been fascinating to discover, to learn and write about so unusual a person. Receiving your comments and reading your views has been a particular delight, and they have given me an impression of how strong and widespread the love for and the loyalty to David Garrett is around the world. May he never lose his way, and may the heavens protect him always. We wish him nothing but the best on his journey through life.

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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 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.

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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.

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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 Strength and Weakness

An attempted Analysis of a Musical Phenomenon – Part 8

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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To be continued with David Garrett and the Girls. 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!

(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 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?

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

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

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.) 


7 Comments

David Garrett, a Rebel by Circumstance

An attempted Analysis of a Musical Phenomenon – Part 5

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

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

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

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

sharpened 4The situation is repeated in his late teens, when he arrives at the conclusion that he needs to take Isaac Stern’s advice to find his own way, his own voice and his own personality. To do this he has to leave home, and so he moves to New York to study violin and composition. It would be normal and easy enough in another person’s life; just a matter of leaving the nest, probably applauded by everyone. How many parents wouldn’t be thrilled to find that their teenage son had secretly applied to the Juilliard School of Music – and been accepted? Could you think of anything that would make you more proud?

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

sharpened 3Then that situation recurs in his twenties, this time taking the shape of a career decision. Only by now David knows that he can trust his own judgement, and the role of the rebel feels familiar. Against the advice of “about ten thousand people” he embarks upon a new way of presenting classical music to a wider, and younger, audience. He finds support and the right people to work with, he shares his vision and his enthusiasm. And, with this final act of perceived rebellion against tradition and all commonly held beliefs, he breaks free and becomes hugely successful.

sharpened 2So many battles, so many victories. In following the compass of his own conviction through all kinds of storms, David Garrett achieves an enviable measure of freedom, of joy and contentment, as well as a sense of purpose. Instead of following the smooth path to international renown that was laid down for him so early, David proves that he is able to get there on his own terms. Does that make him a rebel? It makes him a man – in the best sense of the word. And now, at last, the world is ready to listen.

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

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

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


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David Garrett and the Violin

An attempted Analysis of a Musical Phenomenon – Part 4

On YouTube, a private video recording gives us a glimpse of little David as he plays his first violin. Did you see the look of fierce concentration on his face? Did you notice his attitude of let me show you what I can do? There is such determination in his look, and even at that tender age his whole manner shows that one day he is going to master this instrument.

71 Spiegel TV Porträt

Already there is a remarkable difference to other young children. Whereas their instrument is usually a strange entity and something they have to come to terms with across a gulf of separateness that often feels overwhelming, little David mentally embraces the violin. The movements of his bow are sweeping and confident, he knows how to produce a good sound, he is on pitch; no strangled cats here. Observing his father and brother as they play, he instinctively grasps what it is to be a violinist: what it should feel like, sound like, and look like. And already his temperament is that of a soloist. To achieve the matching skills will be the work of years, but the potential is undeniable.

67 Klein David

Gradually he traverses the realm of fractions as his instrument grows with him, from that first, tiny 1/16 violin that looks like a toy, through the 1/8 and 1/4 sizes to the 1/2 and 3/4. Then, finally, the full size, the one he describes as having arrived at too early. That first Stradivari he received at age eleven was still somewhat too large for him, but it was an offer one would not have refused. It must be around this time, I suppose, that those malpositions began which later led to such problems with his posture and the resulting physical trouble he experienced; the pain and numbness that plagued his later teenage years to the point where he knew he had to stop, sort it all out and make a fresh start.

88 Höchstpersönlich

Watching YouTube material that shows this child-violinist in rehearsals and onstage, the unhealthy angle of his head gives the viewer an uncomfortable feeling. David’s face is resting on his instrument almost as if it were a pillow. Yes, this does illustrate his connection with the violin as the interface that produces his sound, but it also makes one worry about the discs of his neck, because this is a posture he assumes for hours each day, over months and through years. What were the adults around him thinking, one wonders. Didn’t they notice? Fortunately, David himself was able to change his habits in time to give his still resilient body the opportunity to recover.

75 Spiegel TV Porträt

The footage that shows David Garrett after his time in New York also shows the liberation of his face from his instrument. Now his head is upright and free as he plays, and he has shed those involuntary facial expressions (so typical of string players) that were still part of his playing in the early years. His bearing and all his movements are an image of complete liberation. The hard work it must have been to arrive at this seeming effortlessness can only be guessed at.

121 Zorba's Dance (2)

Interviewers have sometimes asked David Garrett if his violins have nicknames, if he has a romantic relationship with his instrument, if maybe it could be described as his woman … Now this is where I would roll my eyes and express disbelief and disgust; but David patiently explains, yet again, that he never had nicknames for his violins, that the relationship is entirely businesslike, and that, although it could be called a partnership and there is certainly attachment, the instrument is primarily a means to an end, and that end is MUSIC.

135 Metallica 2010

But there remains an enduring fascination on any interviewer’s part with the great name of Stradivari, with the thought that David Garrett’s best violin equals the value of a row of suburban homes or a country estate, and also with the fact that he once had the heartcrushing misfortune to slip and fall on his violin case, thereby damaging the instrument it contained. (It was not the Stradivari.) David says little about the time it took him to come to terms with that blow, with the daily renewed realization of this grief, but you can imagine the pain.

Now imagine carrying an object of such value through your days and much of your nights. How does it affect you? Surely it must train a heightened awareness that extends beyond the boundaries of your natural self. An attitude of protective care develops, a habitual carefulness that will in time become second nature. (As we know, first-time parents of newborns get thrown into this state without any preparation.) Organists, pianists and harpists obviously excepted, most musicians have the carrying of something vulnerable and precious through their daily lives in common. This tender, protective care is a soul quality we have always rated highly in any man. And David Garrett, trained by necessity, must necessarily have this quality in abundance. It is yet another attractive facet of his character, another string to his bow. (And never has this expression seemed more apt.)

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

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


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David Garrett’s Musical Magic

An attempted Analysis of a Musical Phenomenon – Part 3

The question has been asked: What is it that distinguishes David Garrett from other violinists? Those that worked nearly as hard as he did in their childhood and now play almost as well? Those that play in an orchestra instead of centre-stage? – The great conductor Zubin Mehta, David’s long-time friend and mentor, put it like this: “You need to have the sound of a soloist, and the temperament of a soloist … He has both.”

68 Bach Sonata No 2 - Andante

But there is also David’s ability to take any hackneyed tune you hoped never to hear again – O sole mio, O Tannenbaum, O whatever – and to make it shiny and new, like the spinning of straw to gold in a fairytale. His heart, head and hands mark the boundaries of that force field in which a joyous rebirth of any – yes indeed, any – piece of music occurs before our astonished ears, takes place in the close-up transmission of cameras before our wondering eyes.

YouTube fan comments: I never get tired of watching this musical genius.” – “It always makes me happy to watch David Garrett play.” – “Maravilloso … simplemente encantador!” – “Many thanks for the magical music!”

There is such conscious clarity in every note and interval, and his playing is never overly sweet, never sentimental. The hint of edginess about the strings and the masculine vigour of his performance work equally well with contemporary and classical music: Beethoven and Brahms, Metallica and Nirvana, Tico Tico and the Czardas, Yesterday and Summertime, even Chopin and Schubert (being all about the piano) can rarely have sounded more enthralling.

“Have you ever heard anything more beautiful?” – “Como llega a mi corazón! Excelente!” – “… an extremely gifted and sensitive musician.” – “His tone is amazing.” – “Every touch of magic, perfect!” – “He adds so much to the song with his own style. Every note played with such clarity.” – “I doubt that anything he touches doesn’t transform to gold.” – “Thank you, dear David Garrett, for your fantastic music and the happiness it brings to us all!”

61 Ode to Joy, 2013

David Garrett can afford to be fearless in his choices, for tags like ‘classical’, ‘crossover’, ‘cover artist’ and suchlike melt to insignificance in this, his particular process of witnessed, conscious creation in music’s universally understood language: A sequence of notes in faultless timing, a progression of harmony, a rhythm … and David’s individual phrasing that expresses a specific emotion in the most beautiful way this moment in time and his outstanding skill affords.

It seems to me that this particular alchemy – this process of turning something too-well-known into something worth listening to – is David Garrett’s unrivalled ability, seasoned with his infectious joy and musical passion. And like a magician he conjures this enchantment for our delight, time and time again, with unfailing commitment. But what he conjures is never illusion. It is truth, pure and sweet.

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To be continued … Our next topic is David Garrett and the Violin. 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.)