About André Rieu
A Dutch violinist, conductor and showman, Rieu has sold more than 40 million albums worldwide. Crowned the “King of Waltz” by the media, Rieu believes that everyone can enjoy classical music. Following in the footsteps of Johann Strauss himself, he encourages his audiences to get out of their seats and waltz in the aisles. Together with his 50-pieces Johann Strauss Orchestra, he tours on five continents. Every year, more than 700,00 fans attend an André Rieu concert, establishing him as one of the top ten touring acts in the world. In 2008 he’s was crowned nr. 1 Classic Artist in the US and scored he more than 100x Platinum in Australia.
André Rieu lives in a castle in Maastricht where the real D’Artagnan was said to have had his last breakfast before he died in battle serving Louis XIV. It’s a castle that André Rieu as a child used to visit to take piano lessons, but he dreamed of living in the castle, renovating it, making it light, filled with golden chandeliers and beautiful paintings. Encouraged by his father, a symphony conductor, Rieu began violin lessons at the age of five. Rieu’s training eventually brought him to the Royal Conservatory of Brussels where he was awarded the Premier Prix. In 1987, he formed the Johann Strauss Orchestra.
The big break
His performance at a big football match between AFC Ajax and Bayern Munich, he says, was a turning point. “One minute before the break, Ajax scored, which made the audience outrageously happy” he said. “I then performed the second waltz on the pitch during intermission and the whole audience was swaying and singing along. That year, I sold more records in the Netherlands than Michael Jackson, all because of this one waltz.”
After the Netherlands had been conquered, the rest of the world followed. His albums are bought everywhere from New Zealand to Japan and he has sold over 30 million copies worldwide. From his successful records came his even more successful concerts. André Rieu and the Johann Strauss Orchestra now perform in Australia, Japan, South Korea, Canada, the US, and across Europe.
Biggest stage set ever
His live shows are an extravaganza of crinolined ladies whose every costume he gives personal approval, fairy tale castles and ice rinks. The most excessive and extravagant show to take on the road. In 2007 Rieu even build a full-size reproduction of Vienna’s imperial Schönbrunn Palace as a stage set for his “World Stadium Tour: A Romantic Vienna Night”. The biggest stage set ever to go on tour. With 125 meters wide, 30 meters deep and 35 meters high it only fitted in the largest stadiums. The set included 2 ice-skating rinks, 2 fountains, and a ballroom dance floor situated above and behind the Orchestra. Rieu’s largest concert attendance to date was 38,605 in Melbourne’s Telstra Dome.
André the architect
“If I would ever put down my violin I would be an architect. I am always building.” Although he’s referring to the renovations on his own private castle it is a metaphor to how he rebuilt the waltz. “I never say stand up and dance to an audience, they simply do. It’s because of the way you might play the Danube.” He sings to the tune of Blue Danube, a tired sleepy song, and then he sings it in a different time signature that brings a smile to the face and a tap to the toe.
Waltz as mirror of life
“The waltz is a very important part of my life. It is an important way to express my positiveness, my bringing humour to the world. The waltz can be sad and at the same time uplifting, so you have to recognise the uplifting part, as well as seeing life from both sides. The waltz encapsulates that. It’s very interesting what a waltz does to an audience. You are in my audience and you let yourself go. You give yourself to me and the waltz will grab you, unless you say, ‘No, I don’t want to,’ then the waltz will not reach you.”
Following his dream
André Rieu was born very near to where he now lives. He started off working in a classical orchestra. “My colleagues only ever spoke about money and union stuff. I was unhappier every day because nobody spoke about music. Marjorie, my wife, was a German and Italian teacher back then. She said: “I will earn the money, so you can follow your dream.” And that was before my orchestra. So in 1987 we started to rehearse. It was a 14 piece orchestra.”
Head in the clouds
Now he has an empire of which one of his sons is a vice-president. His other son is a painter. He says his sons are opposites. One has his head in the clouds, the other on the ground. “I am in the skies and on the ground. People are always asking me how is it possible to be a businessman and an artist at the same time? My big example is Johann Strauss. He had five orchestras and he wrote fantastic music.”
Rieu is an avid conservationist, breeds exotic plants, and saves forests. He believes in putting back. His Stradivarius violin is worth several million euros and is always with him. Does he sleep with his violin? “No, I sleep with my wife, but the violin is in between. It’s 400 years old and it’s a responsibility. I’m not afraid to work with it or jump with it but it’s always there. I don’t see it as a male or female in that romantic way, I see it like a part of my life and part of my body.”
His wife works with him creating the tour, the sets, the costumes, the venues. But she never travels with him on the road. “I am married for 35 years, and you know, because my wife is never with me on the road. I have been touring now for 30 years and I will stay touring for another 60 years.” So that will make you 120. I question does he really believe he can live that long? “I don’t believe it. It’s true. Music has a healing quality. Scientists have proved that. It’s the way we play music. We are not on stage to show how good we are. We are on stage to make people have a wonderful time. It sounds like a cliché, but I know it’s true.”