Music: David Garrett rocks to the classics

Music: David Garrett rocks to the classics

Dickson Tsai



 David Garrett’s new release, “Rock Symphonies”, appeals to rock and classical listeners




The debate between young rockers and older classicists may now rest in peace. Like Lindsey Stirling, the hip-hop violinist on America’s Got Talent, David Garrett takes his violin to new heights by intermixing elements from rock and classical music in his newest album, “Rock Symphonies”, released on July 20. Such a fusion usually results in total success or total disaster, but Garrett for the most part avoids meltdown; given some time, his complex crossovers will lure and lock you in. David Garrett latest album is a crossover of hard rock and classical music. Photo taken with permission from Philipp Mueller, Decca.

He has mixed genres before, combining pop and classical in his previous album, with the eponymous title “David Garrett”, and like the previous album, most of the songs are not completely original but are instead arrangements of classic melodies. The album begins by introducing rock through the two hit songs “Smells Like Teen Spirit” from Nirvana and “November Rain” from Guns N’ Roses. Immediately, the versatility of Garrett’s violin stands out, sharp with teenage hormones in the former while sad and longing in the latter. Beyond that, though, the arrangements are hardly any different from the real songs.

The highlights of the album: the classical pieces. Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 5” and Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue” have dark, complex melodies that beg to be made over by Garrett. The electric guitar and drums complement the classical melodies in his arrangements “The 5th” and “Toccata”, providing the extra intensity that would have been limited by traditional instruments. But we’ve all listened to these songs before at some point, so he adds in his own interpretations to really make a name for himself.

Garrett crashes and burns in his arrangement “Vivaldi vs. Vertigo”, focusing too much on the arrangement’s classical melodies. The Vivaldi segment, the first movement of “Winter”, becomes trite and painful to hear through repetition. Meanwhile, U2’s brilliance is lost as the “Vertigo” section is barely audible. As a result, there is no glorious, intense competition as promised at least not with the violin overtaking the track. Instead of being a marriage of elements like the rest of the album, this song plays out like a nasty divorce.

But don’t put down your earphones just yet. Garrett recovers nicely through the next classical remake, “Asturias”, originally a classical guitar piece composed by Isaac Albéniz. He’s able to turn his violin’s four-string disadvantage into an asset; his blistering performance not only capturing the notes but also evoking the long journey that the melody creates.

Aside from the compositional mistake in “Vivaldi vs. Vertigo”, “Rock Symphonies” showcases the best that rock and classical have to offer, and most importantly, Garrett’s phenomenal talent. He’s definitely found his niche: pulling together two completely different audiences and tastes to enjoy his masterful violin-playing and the rock accompaniment. It’s time for the genre debates to bite the dust and the music to come alive.