David Garrett, Biography
David Garrett (German, born Sep 4, 1980) is a violinist who plays classic music as well as pop and rock. With his mix of different styles of music, he is a record-breaking crossover violinist. He won many awards, recorded around 20 albums, 5 DVD’s and played the lead role in the 2013 movie The Devil's Violinist, as the famous 19th-century violinist Niccolò Paganini.
Childhood and Youth of Garrett
David Garrett was born on September 4, 1980 in Aachen, Germany. As year of his birth, he sometimes uses 1980 and sometimes 1981 during interviews. He is the second of three children of the American prima ballerina Dove Garrett and the German auctioneer for violins and violin teacher Georg Bongartz. When David was around 4 years old, his father gave a violin to his older brother, but David was very interested and his father taught him how to play. When he was five, he already won first prize at the German competition for youth. When he was 7 years old, he studied at the Luebeck Conservatoire. One year later, the parents decided to let him perform under his mother’s maiden name because Garrett was more pronounceable than Bongartz. At age 10 and 11, he studied violin with Zakhar Bron and in 1992 he began working with the distinguished Polish violinist Ida Haendel.
At the age of around 12 years, German president Richard von Weizsaecker and a Foundation of Aachen provided Garrett for some years with a Stradivarius violin, the “San Lorenzo” built in 1716. This violin is considered among the best instruments of Antonio Stradivari’s "golden period".
At the age of 13, as the youngest soloist ever, Garrett signed an exclusive contract with Deutsche Grammophon. Together with Claudio Abbado he recorded violin concertos by Mozart. In April 1997, age 16, he played with the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Zubin Mehta in Delhi and Mumbai in concerts marking the 50th anniversary of India’s Independence.
After graduating from high school in Germany in 1998, his parents insisted that he would study at the Royal College of Music in London, but he did not cooperate while being enrolled. Within one year, he had his own way and moved to his brother who was at New York at that time and attended the Juilliard School. While studying at the Juilliard, Garrett supplemented his income by working as a model. In 2003, at the age of 23, he won the School’s Composition Competition with a fugue composed in the style of Johann Sebastian Bach. He graduated in 2004. Since 2003, he owned a violin built by Giovanni Battista Guadagnini in 1772. This violin was seriously damaged in 2008 during a fall.
While at Juilliard, Garrett studied under Itzhak Perlman, one of the first persons to do so, and Yehudi Menuhin called him the greatest violinist of his generation.
Garrett then tried to newly establish himself as musician. He developed a crossover-concept in which different styles of music were mixed and recorded an album with the record label Decca in London. However, it was not published because Decca was finally not convinced of its success. Garrett managed to have his breakthrough in 2006 with the German concert promoter DEAG, who likes the happening style of classical concerts and adopted his crossover project. His image of a rebel violist was developed.
Garrett's 2008 album Encore pursues an aim of arousing young people’s interest in classical music. The release contains his own compositions and arrangements of pieces and melodies that have accompanied him in his life so far. Together with his band, consisting of keyboard, guitar and drums, he gives concerts that include classical sonatas (accompanied by a concert grand piano), arrangements, and compositions, as well as rock songs and movie themes.
In the press, he is sometimes considered as a violin genius who failed, and his music labelled to have nothing to do with art. However, the record sales of his albums show that the public loves his music: In 2010, he won the award of the German Echo classic “bestseller of the year” and in 2011, he won even 2 Echos, one for his most successful DVD production and one in the category musician rock/pop. In 2014, he won another bestseller Echo for his album Garrett vs. Paganini.
Since 2010, Garrett is playing again a Stradivari, the “Ex A. Busch” built in 1716 whose owner wants to remain anonymous. From 1913 to 1933, it had been owned by the violinist Adolf Busch.
Photo: "Ludwigshafen 23.03.09 031" by Dove Bongartz - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons