David Garrett Legacy

David Garrett Legacy---Live in Baden-Baden concert. It's not an easy thing to pin down, but I think this concert was recorded on May 6, 2011 at the Baden-Baden Festspielhaus. The National Philharmonic of Russia backed up David Garrett on violin. The first half of the evening was devoted mostly to short, fun pieces by Fritz Kreisler. The Philharmonic was led for this by Vladimir Spivakov (their usual conductor), who was ill. Lorenzo Coladonato relieved Spivakov after the intermission, and led the orchestra in Garret's performance of the Beethoven Violin Concerto in D Major.  The sound engineer was Matthias Eberhard; lighting  by Bernd Herr; the director was Torben Schmidt; the producer was Norbert Waldmann. This was published by "Decca Records" but the logo is the old 6-sided one that I don't remember seeing for a long time. Released 2013, the disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: D+

 

Here's the line up of the numbers performed, all by Fritz Kreisler unless noted otherwise:
1. Praeludium and Allegro in the style of Pugnani 
2. Caprice viennois
3. Romance: Larghetto on a Theme By Carl Maria von Weber
4. Variations on a theme of Corelli
5. Liebesleid
6. Tambourin chinois
7. Rhapsody on a theme of Paganini: Variation 18 by Sergei Rachmaninoff
8. Liebesfreud
9. Variations for Violin and Orchestra on "Carnival of Venice" by Niccolò Paganini
10. Concerto for Violin in D major by Ludwig van Beethoven 

David Garrett was a child-prodigy who received thorough classical training and doubtless could have earned a spot on the world-wide A-list for serious violinists. But he elected to become a crossover artist and entertainer, and this aspect of his career may have peaked in 2010 when he released an album called Rock Symphonies. If a prodigy doesn't grows up, there's the risk he may be seen as  a prodigal. Perhaps fearing this, Garrett then hit the circuit playing stuff like Fritz Kreisler, and, oh yes, the Beethoven Violin Concerto. The gig in Baden-Baden became a DVD called Legacy that was published in 2011. Subject Blu-ray version is therefore not new to David Garrett fans.

The Blu-ray package is a bit odd. First, the picture of Garrett in a plain jacket with a narrow necktie bears no relationship that I can see the show on the disc. Second, although Garrett probably spend a fair amount of money on the keepcase booklet, in is excruciatingly hard to read.

I was disappointed with the SQ. The orchestra generally sounds harsh. I think the mikes were poorly placed because I often could not hear well the instruments that happened to be shown on the video.  Garrett can play fast for sure (they say he has a Guiness record for this) without missed a lot of notes. But I thought his tone was shallow, thin, and skittery compared to famous violinists I've heard playing this material in the past.  And throughout the whole disc, but especially in the first part with the lighter fare, the orchestra covers the soloist with so much sound that it's hard to hear him. I think the audience heard Garrett better than we can.

So we are off to a bad start with weak performance and sound. Alas, the video will drag us deeper through the mire. Below is a view of the whole orchestra at the beginning of the concert. The lights were turned way down throughout the house and on stage. (One reason for this may have been obscure the fact that there were empty seats in the house, especially in the balcony.) Dim lighting creates problems for the camera crews,  and I think this may have resulted in the glare from the sheet music that you see here and later:

After working as a rock star for years, it's hard to cool that demeanor back down:

Garrett likes to talk, often a deep flaw for a musician. My German is pretty good, but Garrett's ramblings (in German) were so laced with slang (and maybe even dialect) that I couldn't understand half of what he was saying. And there are no subtitles in any language. The audience was following him well, however, and they responded warmly. But thanks to the power of HD, I can see Garrett much better than the audience can. And I'll have to say I've never before seen a musician play Beethoven (or Kreisler) while wearing a skull ring:

I keep looking for a companion for the creepy ring. Sure enough, from time to time a pendant pops out of Garrett's shirt with another skull, this time festooned with crossbones:

We have a lighting engineer, so let's turn the orange blue. By the way, is the scene in the background Baden-Baden or Vienna?

Let's rotate through the primary colors:

This video has a ton of the worthless "backs shots" which are so prevalent in DVD recordings:

The video is also plagued with bad-focus images like this one with parts of 5 musicians shown, only one of whom is in focus:

Here 1 of 4 is in focus:

Here nobody in focus (to be fair, the cameraman did eventually focus on the conductor, thereby making the error more obvious):

This is not a focus error. Here the cameraman pans through the whole orchestra too fast for his gear to handle the image correctly:

Oh, no! More trick pictures of a chandelier?

Most of the bad pictures above come from before the intermission. The orchestra was reduced for the Beethoven concerto. This opened up more room on the stage for the cameramen to work:

Suddenly we start seeing some better shots like this view of some woodwinds:

Here are some of the second violins and the newly-arrived timpanist:

Four horns all in focus!

Below is my favorite shot from the whole disc. This was made with an excellent remote-controlled camera in the middle of the stage that usually pointed at the conductor (for a full-front shot). By rotating the camera about 120 degrees counter-clockwise, the camera was focused on these two violists, who are normally almost hidden behind the rest of the strings:

Why is this my favorite shot? I love the interplay of light and shadow on the musicians and their instruments. I love the highlights in their hair. Although the picture is asymmetrical, in my imagination I view this as a dual portrait of trusted colleagues who have worked together for a long time. I'm impressed by the intense effort and cool professionalism they bring to the task. But behind that I sense an ardour that supports them. Everyday when they go to work they are submerged in the most glorious music---and they get paid for that as well! They are so lucky to be doing this, and I feel happy for them. We usually think of the musicians as factors who contribute to making something noble.  But isn't it really the musicians who are ennobled by what they give us?

Every image in the video of a performance of classical music is precious and should be created and treated with the same care as the music itself. Listening to music from a CD is fine, but it's only part of the event. To fully appreciate the event,  you must also see it, and see it as well as possible.

Now to a grade for Legacy. Form the viewpoint of the typical music lover, there's almost nothing to be said in favor of this title. If you are interested in violin bon-bons, we have a scintillating collection of them in Waltzes (Vienna Café Music)  by the Philharmonics. If you want an HDVD of the Beethoven concerto,  check out our  glorious performance by Anne-Sophie Mutter with the Berlin Philharmonic in the Karajan Memorial Concert disc. But not all music lovers are typical, and David Garret has his supporters. So I'll settle on a D for the basic grade, but I'll add a "+" in honor of those Garrett fans out there with their skullrings.