David Garrett—when classical violin goes crossover

By David Fleshler

The Broward Center’s Amaturo Theater in Fort Lauderdale was sold out. A couple of women in their 20s whispered excitedly to each other. A pre-teen boy leaned forward in his seat and bounced in rhythm to the music. People whooped and cheered at the end of difficult solos. Could this really be the audience for a classical violinist?

 Sort of. David Garrett, a crossover star making his first U.S. tour, has impressive classical credentials: A contract with Deutsche Grammophon at the age of 13, studies at Juilliard with Itzhak Perlman, solo appearances with major orchestras.

 But rather than try for the standard concert violinist career of recitals and concertos, he has taken the road of a very profitable alternative: Appearing on stage in a black fedora and boots with an amplified violin, backed up by a rock band, to play a mix of songs by Queen, Metallica and AC/DC, sprinkled with a few pop arrangements of classical works. It doesn’t hurt that the blond, pony-tailed violinist has, according to his web site, “arresting good looks.”

 But unlike crossover king Andrea Bocelli, a tenor who has been skewered by classical critics for his weak vocal technique and utter dependence on electronic amplification, Garrett possesses a level of instrumental skill that demands respect. As he showed Thursday in Fort Lauderdale, he can play at hair-raising speed, with rock-solid intonation, demonstrating his skill in difficult works such as Paganini’s Carnival of Venice, the last movement of Summer from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, and Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No. 5.

 In his performance of Grigoras Dinicu’s old violin showpiece Hora Staccato, however, he skipped the difficult staccato bowing that gave the piece its name. And he was less effective in melodic works such as Bach’s Air from the Suite in D and Gershwin’s Summertime, where his emphatic style was about as delicate and refined as someone jabbing their finger in your chest.

 He was at his best in pulsing, high-energy arrangements of Queen’s Who Wants to Live Forever, the theme from Pirates of the Caribbean, AC/DC’s Thunderstruck and other rock and pop songs that integrated the violin with the thumping bass, drums and other instruments of his electronic band. Toward the end he performed a couple of his own works, a soulful ballad and a pounding, rock-style tribute to Baroque music, drawing a long standard ovation.

 It’s easy for classical critics to sneer at crossover musicians like Garrett. But the level of excitement in the theater exceeded that for all but a few classical concerts.

 David Garrett performs 7:30 pm Friday at the Amaturo Theater at the Broward Center of the Performing Arts in Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-462-0222 or go to www.browardcenter.org.

Posted in Performances

One Response to “David Garrett—when classical violin goes crossover”

  1. Posted Oct 20, 2009 at 10:41 pm by Marion Wesoski

    David Garrett is a young, exuberant, exceedingly gifted musician who clearly enjoys his craft. He is a door through which young rockers can enter the world of classical music and see that a classical instrument can also rock.
    David is having such obvious fun playing his adaptations of ACDC, Queen and Metallica that to criticize him for crossing over seems mean spirited and a bit stuffy. After all, he can cross back over any time he chooses to do so.
    Bach, Vivaldi, Beethoven, Liszt etc. were all ‘rockers’ of their time and it is only years later that they are seen as ‘classical’.
    Bravo David Garrett….Young, gifted and HOT!

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Fri Oct 9, 2009
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