NEW YORK (CNN) -- Not every classically trained musician has the gumption to interpret Michael Jackson on the violin. But German-born virtuoso David Garrett re-imagines "Smooth Criminal" with such fervor that you'd think Jackson had intended the song to be played by the instrument all along.
"I always loved his performances because as a lot of classical musicians are perfectionists, he was," said Garrett of the late singer. "He was really one of those people who was really old school, always looking for better performances. [He was] definitely a big influence [on me]."
Recorded before Jackson's death, Garrett's "Smooth Criminal" cover appears on his self-titled debut album, which has enjoyed three weeks atop the classical crossover charts since its release last month on Decca Records.
As comfortable playing Bach's "Air on the G String" as he is Metallica's "Nothing Else Matters" (both of which appear on the album), Garrett makes no bones about the fact he's trying to attract a younger audience to classical music by injecting shots of rock and pop.
Already a celebrated artist in Europe and Asia, the 28-year-old worked his way into the spotlight in the United States with help from his PBS special "Live in Berlin."
And his chiseled jawline and playful blond ponytail seem to help sway the female contingent. After spotting him recently on NBC's "Today Show," actress Kirstie Alley declared on Twitter that Garrett was her new crush.
But she'd better get moving if she wants to keep up with him. Garrett, who studied with renowned violinist Itzhak Perlman at New York's Juilliard School, recently set a record as the world's fastest violinist, a feat to be documented in 2010's Guinness Book of World Records. He played "Flight of the Bumblebee" in a dizzying 66 seconds. Put another way, that's 13 notes per second. Really.
What bothers me is the act of trivializing music and turning it into a circus act. It's close to a parlour trick to emphasize speed as though music were a race. If you google the piece you will hear half a dozen violinists using tremolo the same way and they are all within about 10 seconds of this performance, except that they are not participating in a race. They are playing music. This fellow can also play music well. Why must musicians go to such lengths to attract and audience and get into the news? If he studied with Perlman then that says something. Is this necessary?