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David Garrett – Virtuoso
La Califfa [2:45]
Georges BIZET
Carmen Fantaisie [4:14]
Nothing Else Matters [3:30]
Vittorio MONTI
Czardas – Gypsy Dance [3:23]
Arthur SMITH
Duelling Banjos Duelling Strings
Pachelbel’s Canon [3:16]
Paganini Caprice (on Caprice 24) [4:05]
Somewhere (West Side Story) [3:11]
The Flight of the Bumble Bee [1:18]
David GARRETT and Franck Van der HEIJDEN
Serenade (2005) [3:36]; Toccata [3:47]; Eliza’s Song [2:59]
Rolf LOVLAND and Brendan GRAHAM
You Raise Me Up [4:17]
The music of almost all the above was arranged by Jonathan Quarmby, Kevin Bacon, Elo Lindhardsen, Franck Van der Heijden and David Garrett
David Garrett (violin)
Mark Sheridan (backing vocals and flamenco guitar), Jonathan Quarmby (whistle and piano), Paco Pea (flamenco guitar), Kevin Bacon (bass and percussion), Elizabeth Kenny (lute), Ed Boyd (guitar) and many, many more.
rec. 2006 and 2007 RAK Recording Studios, London, Galaxy Studios, Belgium, Meseka Music Studios, Baarn, RecArt Music. DDD
DECCA 4780080 [42:30]


Experience Classicsonline

In all the photos of David Garrett which adorn this CD, he looks for all the world like David Beckham. I bet he doesn’t have the ball control of his famous first namesake, nor will he understand the offside rule.

Carmen Fantaisie starts with a tremolando on guitar, then David plays the famous habanera – it’s a beautiful tune – with a big vibrato. Then in comes the rhythm section and he plays the tune again. Then he plays the tune again with embellishments, over a constant beat. The Flamenco break which then interrupts the music is embarrassing, then we return to the tune with twiddly bits. I cannot imagine why Bizet never thought of this invigorating arrangement instead of the dull old sung version with solid orchestral backing.

It was at this point that I started to wonder if I was really a bad person. Had this CD been sent to me so that I could pay some penance for some dastardly deed done in my earlier life? If I’d had a knife nearby the thought crossed my mind that cutting my wrists would be a welcome release.

A banal arrangement of a banal pop song by Metallica follows and is treated with more respect that poor old Bizet – probably because Metallica’s song is still under copyright.

Duelling Banjos featured in the film Deliverance and it was brilliant in that context.

I want to quote two points from Garrett’s notes to show this whole pretentious enterprise for what it is. David tells us, a propos Pachelbel’s Canon, that “The challenge was to create a new interpretation (this is what performing musicians do day in, day out, David – talk about stating the very obvious!) while still basing it on the traditional instrumentation of harpsichord and lute. So we added an exciting tempo change in the middle section, to give me an extra virtuoso moment!” He plays with his vibrato and syrupy sound – quite inappropriate for the material, of course – then twiddles around for a while as his accompaniment marks time. I never heard the lute which was part of the traditional - not original I notice - instrumentation.

David then tells us that, with regard to Paganini Caprice, “… having created a wholly new orchestral accompaniment, I felt that something was missing – the fast paced rhythm of the technically demanding violin part … needed more emphasis. The guitar and a whole set of drums now bring to life a wholly different side of Paganini’s masterpiece.” If only Paganini had thought of this his composition could have been so much better.

Bernstein’s Somewhere has had better days.

David’s insistent vibrato was, by now, very annoying. So was his simplistic view of everything he played, which extended into his own compositions. Just when I got to the end of Eliza’s Song, and knew in my heart of hearts that I would never need to hear this CD ever again, there was a “bonus” track – oh, happy day – Monti’s Czardas reappeared in what was called The Ganas Mix, which appeared to be a bit of percussion added for rhythmic effect with something swooning away in the background.

On the British Children’s TV programme Blue Peter on 28 May 2008 David Garrett played a version of The Flight of the Bumble Bee in just 1 minute 6.56 seconds, thus becoming the Guinness World of Records World’s Fastest Violinist. Who cares? It can’t have done anything to help children appreciate classical music.

Musically, this, truly, is dross. Who is it aimed at? Some, unkind, friends of mine have suggested listeners to Classic FM, but surely that radio station plays music as she is writ, even if only parts of compositions are broadcast. Garrett has recorded Tchaikovsky and Mozart Concertos – I wonder if he brought his special insights into music, as he has done here, to those performances? Of course, it’s easier playing rubbish like this than the Tchaikovsky Concerto. If you really want to hear a violin used superbly and artistically within a popular music context, go to YouTube and listen to David LaFlamme’s magnificent fiddling in White Bird by It’s A Beautiful Day – seminal late 1960s hippy-trippy music, perhaps, but real, honest and streets ahead of this nonsense.

Bob Briggs



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