The child of an American mother and a German father, prodigy violin soloist David Garrett, born David Bongartz in Aachen, Germany, reached and surpassed many an important milestone before his matriculation at Juilliard in New York. David‘s interest in violin began at the age of four, when his older brother received a violin from his father — who himself was a antique stringed-instrument dealer. A year later, David had already won a competition, and by seven he was playing in public as often as possible. Within five more years, David had gone on to perform with an orchestra (playing Mozart) and at the age of ten made his concert debut. As his teenage years dawned, David had already released two albums and appeared on television. This kind of talent was quickly picked up by Deutsche Grammophone, which offered and signed a contract with the violinist when he was only 14 years old. He graduated from Juilliard in New York in 2004, after having been a student with Itzhak Perlman. David Garrett has performed with many of the world’s orchestras, and in 2007 he played with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, touring the United States with the orchestra in 2008. In 2009 he released a self-titled album on the Decca label. The varied repertoire included music from Bizet, a version of “Dueling Banjos” plus a cover version of Michael Jackson’s “Smooth Criminal”. A year later he returned with Rock Symphonies, an album featuring material from Nirvana, Guns ‘N’ Roses, and Metallica.
Flight of the bumblebee
Claire De Lune, 23 05 11, Köln
Q&A with classical crossover violinist David Garrett
David Garrett (born David Bongartz; 4 September 1980) is a record-breaking German classical and crossover violinist and recording artist.
Do you have a wild lifestyle to match your rock-star looks?
You have to take care of your body and mind to do as many shows and as much travelling as I do. These days musicians are aware of their responsibilities, whatever field they are in, so it isn’t possible to live that kind of lifestyle.
Does your image stop people taking you seriously as a classical musician?
As long as a great violinist like Itzhak Perlman says he loves my playing then I don’t really care too much about others not liking me. I’m not saying I would never wear a suit on stage, but it doesn’t make the music sound any better.
Who are your favourite bands?
I’m a big fan of rock because I appreciate the skill of people actually playing their instruments. It’s not created on a computer. For me, Queen and Led Zeppelin are the total package.
You’re from Germany. Do you have a sense of humour?
I think I have a very good sense of humour. You have to be able to laugh once in a while, especially when things go wrong. My father is German and my mother American, so I actually have dual citizenship, which is very useful [David uses his mother’s maiden name Garrett professionally].
I have apartments in Berlin and New York, but I don’t spend much time in either place as I’m away for up to 340 days a year.
What would be an ideal day?
Being in a little house near the beach, maybe in the Maldives, with no phone reception. Once a year I have ten days off, which I like to spend by myself as far away as possible from civilisation.
What do you spend your money on?
Not much. It’s perverse that once you make good money people give you things, from Diesel jeans and a Dolce & Gabbana jacket to the cars I drive. A few years ago, when I didn’t have much money, nobody wanted to give me anything!
Any time for romance?
Sometimes, but it’s very hard to sustain a serious relationship. Either it means someone has to travel with me – which I’ve tried and it has never worked out – or they’re at home while I’m away most of the time. Maybe in a few years I will have the option to go for it.