An Interview with David Garrett: String Theory

Internationally recognized and revered, master violinist David Garrett returns to the U.S. in March, much to the delight of classical and contemporary fans alike. Crossover darling of the classical world, Garrett’s albums have delighted and blurred the spaces between Vivaldi and Led Zeppelin, Mozart and Nirvana. With a list of accomplishments and rewards as impressive as his repertoire and sold-out concerts, Garrett is heading strong into 2014, bringing success and ambition along for the ride. Fans can learn more in his documentary, Playing For My Life, on, or, for a silver screen treat, in his film debut as lady chaser/heartbreaker Paganini in The Devil’s Violinist (yet to be released in the States). Prior to heading out on tour, we spoke about Garrett’s Guinness World Records entry and his theories on emotion, technique, and talent versus hard work.

How do you navigate that space between classical and contemporary violin?

I don’t really think about it too much. Call it being naive or just going with the flow. I mean, in the end there are so many projects which are in themselves quite different from the ones I did before. I always try to keep my foundation in classical and from there on I’m just doing those little vacations. Music was all over the place, which was the intention, then Rock Symphonies was more kind of like the rock anthem, and the Beethoven violin concerto which was, again, a very core kind of classical record. In the end, I always start from my classical roots and just go on vacation.

In Playing For My Life you were referred to as a “crossover artist.”


Has there ever been a concern that maybe a younger audience wouldn’t get it and appreciate it?

The thing is it was never really the intention necessarily to succeed. Sometimes, yeah, you do things because you feel they’re right and you have a chance and it’s a good thing and you have fun doing it. On top of that there’s going to be the audiences. That’s the bonus. That’s the general idea, where if you’re lucky you’ll end up. But the first initial thought was that I want to have fun with my profession, my job, and I want to do the project that I want to do. If [albums are] successful, then great. If they’re not, still great because I’m having a good time.

In addition to your albums, you’re known for breaking the violin speed record. Whether played fast or slow, violin produces such emotion and melancholy.

Oh yeah. Obviously in order to be in total control of emotions you first of all have to have the technique. The technique is the foundation of being free on the instrument and being able to express. In the end, I think the most important thing in music is the emotions. Obviously that’s where it all leads to, but I think you also always have to know that the technique is where you start from. If you can’t play properly or have difficulties, then you are imprisoned in your own technical inabilities. And then, music is as I said before, all emotion.

So as you’ve grown as a violinist, as a musician, and as a person, do you feel your music has become more emotional as opposed to technical? That you’ve appreciated emotion over technical accuracy?

It’s not that I appreciated technique. It’s a necessity. When you grow up and you’re four, five, six, seven, eight, nine years old, it is a necessity to be able to play, but at that point, of course you’re still trying to always improve and get better technically, so you get more free when you get to the music. But did my emotions change? Obviously every day. Any experience, any situation in life which is good or bad influences you. It’s not that I have to specifically think about a certain moment in my life, it’s just everything channels and when I’m on stage, it comes out, hopefully.

How do you incorporate rock-show theatrics into what people might think of as a classical, orchestral performance?

It’s just imagination, you know? I love being creative. I like, obviously, picking the pieces, and once I pick a piece, I immediately have a visual of how it could look on a great show, a big show. I always work with the right designers who get all of the right key elements so it’s all structured so it doesn’t take away from the music. I love enhancing the show but I don’t like to distract with whatever is happening around. So, yeah, that’s very, very important to me, so I always keep it in mind.

Tell me more about The Devil’s Violinist. What interested you in that project?

I was asked to do the soundtrack so obviously I felt quite at home doing music, writing music. It was, of course, a huge challenge, but if you have the opportunity to write a soundtrack for a movie, you’d better take it (laughs).

Before I let you go, I know a lot was made of you being a child prodigy.

Whatever that means, yeah.

Exactly. From that, though, what do you think the importance is of recognizing your talent and nurturing it?

Talent, I don’t realize. I realize the work I put into it. I guess talent is something, at some point, you realize you don’t have when you don’t end up having the success you think you could. Luckily, I guess I do have talent because all of the work I put in paid off. The only thing is, talent, I don’t notice talent in myself. I guess it must be there because it’s working but all I notice, all I feel on an everyday basis, is the work.

I think there is a tendency for people to say a person is “gifted” or “a natural” when, really, there has been a tremendous amount of work that’s gone into everything.

Of course. The only difference is, you can have somebody with talent and he works extremely hard and at some point something will come out of it. If somebody wants to do something but there is not the talent and he still puts all the work in, at some point he will have to accept that it’s not going to go in that direction. But, you know, do something else. As I said, I was very fortunate that the combination of whatever you want to call talent, the mystical thing, something is there and it combined with work and took me somewhere.


David Garrett will be at NYC’s Best Buy Theater on March 18 and 19. For more information, go to