Garrett was plagued by feelings of inadequacy after spending his childhood in the classical spotlight, he tells Charlotte Smith 


David Garrett aged 18

For some time, Garrett had been plagued by feelings of inadequacy. ‘I had played a lot of concerts until I was 16 or 17, and I thought I was a good violinist, but not a great musician,’ he says. ‘I wasn’t very skilled at reading orchestral scores, and I didn’t properly understand harmony and counterpoint. When I was standing next to a conductor, I always felt that I wasn’t entirely understanding him when he went into detail about the music, and that made me feel uncomfortable.’

The recognition of his musical shortcomings coincided with the teen’s growing awareness of the very great responsibility that had been placed on his young shoulders. ‘In my early career, when I was still a kid, I enjoyed performing and making music. But as I reached 14, 15 and 16 I stopped enjoying being on stage. I started experiencing stage fright and nervousness. When you’re very young, you don’t question anything. You perform because you know how to – and there is no voice inside crying out that you must play brilliantly. But as you become older, and there are record companies and promoters, and things start to become a business, you begin to realise that you are responsible for that success. That sense of responsibility hit me hard at the time, and I started to perform not for myself but to serve the expectations of others.’

Read It was the escape plan for less than first-class musicians’ – David Garrett

Watch David Garrett performs Paganini Caprice no.24 at La Scala

Read David Garrett: His own path

The key for Garrett was Juilliard, and a double major in performance and composition that served to fill the gaps in his wider musical knowledge. ‘Honestly, when I enrolled, I wasn’t even sure if I wanted to play the violin any more,’ he reveals. ‘I had to find my self-esteem again, and that could only be regained with knowledge. That meant practising, of course, but also learning about music.’