While changing channels on my TV, I noticed quite a musician on a daily talk show on the BBC. The music he performed on his violin attracted my attention. Soon I found out that he was David Garrett playing the song Smells Like Teen Spirit. Curiously this Nirvana-song never got my attention when it was released by Kurt Cobain and David Grohl in 1991. However, this violin version performed with many classical influences sounded very well and good enough to google Mr. Garrett's name. I found out that he had released an album called Rock Symphonies which contains this song. I also found out that David Garrett was born as David Bongartz on September 4, 1980 in Aachen, Germany to an American prima ballerina and a German lawyer and jurist. He adopted his mother's maiden name for a pseudonym.
When Garrett was four years old his father bought a violin for his elder brother. The young Garrett showed great interest and he rapidly learned to play. By the age of seven he was playing once a week in public. He studied violin at the Lübeck Conservatoire and at the Royal College of Music in London. In 2004 he graduated from the Juilliard School in New York City. At the age of thirteen Garrett recorded two CDs; when he was seventeen he played with the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra and at the age of 21 he was invited to perform at the BBC Proms.
In 2008, Garrett released Encore in order to get young people interested in classical music. This release contains his own arrangements and compositions, but also pieces of music he grew up with including popular songs as Smooth Criminal (Michael Jackson) and Who Wants to Live Forever? (Queen), but also songs from classical composers as Summertime (George Gershwin), Hungarian Dance No. 5 (Johannes Brahms) and Summer (Antonio Vivaldi). In 2009 he released an eponymous album in the United States that contained all tracks from his albums published earlier in Europe, but in particular from Encore.
His latest release Rock Symphonies can be seen as a successor to his well-received Encore-album. It's again a successful combination of classical pieces and rock tunes. This release only contains strong instrumental music mostly dominated by Garrett's violin, but always accompanied by a great rock band. On most of the tracks the violin replaces the vocal melodies in such a way that one hardly misses the original vocal lines. Occasionally an electric guitar gets the opportunity to take the lead as we can hear on tracks as November Rain (Guns & Roses) and Master Of Puppets (Metallica). The most emotional pieces are the ones on which the violin sounds as a gypsy orchestra. A good example is Rock Symphony. It's obvious that the more progressive rock orientated songs and the arranged classical pieces are the most interesting for the readers of Background Magazine. In my opinion Toccato (Bach), Kashmir (Led Zeppelin), Live And Let Die (Paul McCartney) and Peer Gynt (Grieg) are the highlights on the first disc of the deluxe version, but the songs David wrote are also worth-while listening. Rock Symphony and the 80's Anthem are fine pieces of music. Especially the way he recorded Vivaldi vs. Vertigo is pretty amazing. You can hear an incredible mixture of two musical styles. The Four Seasons (Vivaldi) and Vertigo (U2) splendidly combine the best of both musical worlds.
People who didn't buy the retail version but the double-CD get almost fifteen minutes of additional music. The extra disc contains four audio tracks of which Child Anthem (Toto) is the most surprising. Garrett manages to make it sound very good, almost as a real progressive rock tune. The features added as a bonus are just as good as on the first CD, but the video content you can only watch on your computer. After putting the disc in your PC, you can enjoy great live footage of Walk This Way (Aerosmith) and Smells Like Teen Spirit shot at the Electric Lady Studios, and two trailers from the Rock Symphonies DVD. For me, these trailers are good enough to watch this open air concert someday.
If you like classical music played in a rock setting or rock tunes with a classical approach you may find pleasure in the music performed by David Garrett. It's not to be denied that some pieces go too much towards a radio-friendly sound. A bit the way Vanessa Mae did on her albums. This female violin player also tried to narrow the gap between rock and classical music. However, David Garrett's way of blending these styles together reflects my personal musical taste better. Therefore I can only give a positive judgment about Rock Symphonies. Well done indeed!
*** Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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