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On mixing popular and classical music
Classical music
was always
meant to lift
people’s spirits
and entertain
Contrary to appearances, the rock violinist has plenty in common with Paganini
18 |
| JULY 2011
CHRIS O’DONOVAN/decca; lebrecht music & arts/alamy
begun by the likes of Paganini and
Kreisler. You could argue, then, that
I am more ‘traditional’ than those
violinists who only reflect the past. I try
to adhere to the following guidelines
when arranging music and performing...
Stay true to the composer
1 As an artist, you have the role of
interpreter of wonderful music. The
key is to stay true to what is written.
Each composer gives you everything
you need to know in the score. If you
follow those guidelines, you are on the
right track to serve the composer,
which is what you are there to do.
Classical music should never
become a gimmick. Players have a
responsibility to represent the
composer to the best of their ability –
this is always priority number one.
portray your passion
2 I feel it is very important to
convey your love for classical music. It
should be your passion. And what is
sexier than passion itself? Going out
and talking about your passion will
always promote classical music.
There is no shame in doing interviews
expressing that you love what you do.
If you play classical music, be proud of
it – tell people what you do and expose
them to your passion.
dress your age!
3 I do not see a reason to dress up
the way people dressed a hundred years
ago. Neither did Mozart, who felt no
need to dress like Bach, nor Brahms
who did not dress like Mozart. All
those musicians dressed according
to the prevailing fashion of their time
– and so do I!
Don’t be afraid of
4 contemporary influences
I feel very strongly about integrating
popular music that inspires me into
my repertoire. Most of the classical
musicians I know listen to and enjoy
contemporary music, but some are held
back by the conservative idea that
popular music is inferior. Bernstein,
Bartók, Bach, Mendelssohn, Beethoven
and Prokofiev all integrated popular
music into their music. If they did it,
you shouldn’t feel wrong doing it either.
Have fun with it
5 Classical music was always meant
Paganini also
used popular tunes
in his compositions
to lift people’s spirits and entertain.
Remember that classical music was
always contemporary at some point.
Human emotions have not changed
much over the past 1000 years and
music still serves the same purpose
in acknowledging and enhancing
those emotions. All music still has
contemporary relevance.
chris o’donovan
Classical music does
not need to be
reinvented. It is already
perfect. But of course,
as with everything in
life, it does need to be discovered. So
as a classical musician, it is my
responsibility to help a lot of young
people discover great classical music.
In my experience classical music is
as accessible as Rock, R&B, Jazz
or whatever the more contemporary
popular music may be. But the greatest
product in the world will not sell if
you don’t go out and make it visible
to audiences.
It is unavoidable that one must go
beyond the playing itself to help
classical music survive. I have always
felt that combining the past with the
present is the best way to reach out to
new audiences. Looking back over the
history of music, great musicians have
always been inspired by the past, while
integrating their own thoughts and the
popular music and cultural references
of their time.
Mozart integrated contemporary
and often controversial literature into
his operas; Mendelssohn rediscovered
Bach; and the great violin virtuosos
of the 19th and 20th centuries –
Paganini, Wieniawski, Sarasate, Ysaÿe,
Kreisler and Heifetz – frequently used
popular tunes as a base for many of
their compositions.
At some point in the mid-20th
century, a trend began for performers
to focus more on playing and less on
composing, which I believe has limited
the exposure of classical music. As a
modern violinist, I feel it is necessary to
integrate your love for music, including
contemporary popular music, into your
playing to reach out to new audiences.
I see myself as part of the tradition
Age 30
Birthplace Aachen,
Studied With
Itzhak Perlman and
Ida Haendel
Professional debut
With the Hamburg
Philharmonic at
the age of 10
Big break Aged 13, he
became the youngest
person to land an
exclusive recording
contract with Deutsche
Prizes Won the 2008
ECHO Klassik Award for
his album Virtuoso
Did you know?
David makes an
appearance in the 2010
Guinness Book of World
Records – as the
world’s fastest violinist
David Garrett’s Rock Symphonies
is out now on Decca
JULY 2011 |
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