Violin sex symbol David Garrett plays the Capitol Theatre

By JOHN FLEMING

Violinist David Garrett is being promoted as a new sex symbol for classical music. It's a tradition that reaches back to the original violin superstar, Niccolo Paganini, the 19th century Italian who was as famous for his romantic conquests as his showy technique. Stewart Granger and Klaus Kinski have played Paganini in movies.

There's just something about violinists and sex. Linda Brava, a Finnish violin goddess, was on the cover of Playboy. Vanessa-Mae and the violin girl group Bond are as famous for their glamorous looks as their music. Anne-Sophie Mutter, the German ice queen, has long been an object of desire for classical music geeks. Google "violin'' and "matinee idol,'' and you get lots of links to Joshua Bell and Tim Fain, a pair of hot American virtuosos.

So now comes Garrett, a German who is on tour to support his self-titled first album in the United States (he has nine international releases). As a violinist, he's the real thing, having been a prodigy in Germany and featured as a soloist as a teenager with the Munich Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta. He recorded Mozart and Tchaikovsky concertos with major conductors such as Claudio Abbado and Mikhail Pletnev. At the Juilliard School in New York, he studied with Itzhak Perlman.

But Garrett also worked in New York as a model, including spreads in Vogue and a deal as global brand ambassador for Banana Republic. At some point publicists started referring to him as the "David Beckham of the violin.'' He also got burned out on Bach sonatas and partitas and "ached to escape the confines of classical music,'' as his Web site puts it. In this respect, he somewhat resembles British violinist Nigel Kennedy — "the Nige'' — who was classical music's rebel without a cause in the 1990s, playing a lot of jazz, appearing on Sarah Brightman's Harem CD and spicing up his rendition of the Beethoven Violin Concerto with a Jimi Hendrix-inspired cadenza.

The album David Garrett has more crossover than classical with covers of songs by Metallica, Queen and Michael Jackson. He plays a version of the Bill Withers song Ain't No Sunshine, as well as the theme from Pirates of the Caribbean. There is a smattering of classical, such as the "Summer'' movement from Vivaldi's Four Seasons and Bach's Air, with an R&B track beneath it.

Garrett is known for fast playing, and a couple of tracks — a dance tune from Zorba the Greek and Dueling Banjos (Dueling Strings) — show off his fancy fiddling.

The violinist plays at 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Capitol Theatre in Clearwater. $25, $43. (727) 791-7400; rutheckerdhall.com.

John Fleming can be reached at fleming@sptimes.com.

Violin sex symbol David Garrett plays the Capitol Theatre 03/31/10 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 30, 2010 7:55pm]

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