When classical and pop cross over, is it a good thing?
Recent forays into rock by Renee Fleming and classical music by Sting have revived the spotlight on artists crossing from one musical genre to another. But neither opera empress nor pop icon embody crossover music quite like 28-year-old David Garrett.
In 2009 the frightfully handsome violinist, a star in classical music, hit the top of Billboard’s Classical Crossover chart after a glossy film of one of his concerts — during which he, rock band and orchestra raved-up songs by AC/DC and Michael Jackson — was broadcast on PBS stations, including KCET.
On his new album, “Rock Symphonies,” accompanied by a new PBS concert film, Garrett and his Stradivarius hot-wire Beethoven’s Fifth and Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” as well as Guns N’ Roses’ “November Rain” and Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”
Garrett is a captivating champion of the right of rock and classical music to share chords. Yet as he careens around stages, arpeggios flying from his fingers, he exposes cracks in a relationship that has been shaky from the days the Boston Pops first fluffed up “Hey Jude.”
It’s often painfully apparent that when rock and classical music meet for a date, they have no chemistry. Together, each is diminished.
“You can’t put Halle Berry with Roger Federer, expect them to mate and have a super human being — it doesn’t work that way,” said Bramwell Tovey, music director of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra and principal guest conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl, whose son Ben plays guitar in the heavy metal band Rise to Remain.
“Rock is an amplified world, classical is an acoustic one. An orchestra is a very organic thing. It can turn on a dime. Amplifying it, locking it inside a rock drum kit, can destroy it.”
To hear Garrett's music check out the video below.
Photo: David Garrett. Credit: Philipp Müller /Decca Label Group