Johannes B. Kerner show
ZDF interview. 31 October 2002
He can probably not stand the term 'Waltz King' or miracle violinist anymore, but they happen to apply,
and the people love him for what he does. The last time he was here he still had to play in Japan and
he still had to show the Japanese public that the music he makes good for them is. Now he is back
from that tour during which he was greatly idolized, he will tell us about it himself.
Welcome Andre Rieu!
How long was your tour?
Two weeks. (Andre answers in Japanese)
And everywhere they cheered? Thus the terms which I used so lightly really applied.
Yes, you are right and it was amazing.
Why do the Japanese just stand still by the waltzes?
They can not dance the waltz at all. It is unbelievable, when you see it. But they do move! The all say;
we are so shy and self conscious, but the opposite is true I have never had a more excited and
They first have to loosen up and then they link arms and sway from side to side in time with
Yes, once they relax, but not only with the waltzes, with everything. For example the last piece we
played was a medley, which I put together. My audience here will know what I am talking about, we
call it Tirol rock It is a medley which combines Tiroler music and Rock and Roll. Can you picture that
With difficulty. I try to imagine how the Japanese would let go. What is excitement in Japan?
I assume that they do not stand on the chairs?
No, but they cried and laughed and were so excited. We really were astonished about what happened.
It was unbelievable.
I have wondered about this question since the beginning of our talk. Why can the Japanese
not dance the waltz?
I do not know. They can not dance at all.
They could not play golf, but they nevertheless learned how to play. They cannot dance at all?
No, I think I will have to teach them. They really do not know how to dance.
But it must still have been surprising, also for someone who is used to full Halls and an
enthusiastic audience, to see that even in Japan, if I say so, it works in the same way.
Great, that you say that. In Japan too, that is absolutely right, what I discovered is that the Japanese
really are not that different. It is not at all true. The language of course is completely different. I am
learning Japanese. I absolutely want to do that. Now, I had to make do with a translator.
It is an essential part of your concerts that you, in between the music, also talk to the people.
You announce, explain and describe the music pieces.
Yes, in order to try to loosen things up a bit, to relax the whole classics and that of course would seem
rather difficult in Japan. I spent a whole day with the translator to try to explain to him what I wanted. It
was very trying because he did not understand what I meant. I though we finally succeeded. But later I
heard from other translators that a lot of the humor that I tried to put in, did not come over at all.
Therefore I want to try and do it myself.
You seriously want to learn Japanese?
And who do you want to hire for that?
During the America tour I bought a computer program with which I can learn the language. I am already
on the second CD. I am making some progress, but it is going too slowly I am also thinking about hiring
someone to teach me every day for an hour.
To immerse yourself with Japanese?
I assume that the people will be very impressed when someone speaks their native tongue.
I have already said some sentences.
Is it true that you are recognized in the streets of Tokyo?
Thus it becomes more difficult to leave the hotel?
Oh, it is not that bad yet, but it is nice to see that it works.
Did your wife go with you?
No, she does not like to fly, and with the plane to Japan…
Yes, we can understand that. Then you also have to go with a small boat, if I am informed
correctly, you can not get there completely by plane. Does that mean she does not go at all
when there are big tours?
No, when we play in Dortmund of in Köln then she comes with us. I live in Maastricht, and then she
comes with the car too, that works.
You work together?
Yes, absolutely. We do everything together. Not just a little, we work together very closely.
She is your manager?
She is not exactly my manager anymore, but we did build everything together. She was when it was still
small, now since this has become so much bigger, she stays more in the background, but she still
develops everything with me. Thus the large line, the ideas, the new program, actually she is involved
in the whole thing. I came from a very classical background. I was raised with Bach, Beethoven and
Rachmaninow and Marjorie taught me all about the lighter side of the classics.
Thus to that extent is she was behind a large portion of your success?
At Rieu's production, in the meantime the whole family is involved, not only your wife, but
also a son is now in the business.
Yes, my youngest son is my production manager. I think he is the youngest production manager world
How old is he?
Does he do a good job?
Does he have a difficult boss?
Yes, but he is also absolutely competent and fair.
Your other son will he also join after his study?
Who knows. He is very musical and he studies Art history. He is interested in everything to do with
music. He looks at music more from a scientific point of view. I feel music more with my heart.
Now we know about Rieu, and we know about his performances. We also know how much
success he has and how much the people enjoy it. But to understand this whole enterprise
we also need to understand what goes on in the background. All these musicians are your
So it is nearly a entertainment company?
Well company…. They are all employed by me because that is how it works. In Holland there is a law, it
was introduced two years ago, I believe. Before this law the musicians all were free-lance. I just would
ask them each year again. We trusted each other. And then that law came and I had to hire them,
which I did.
How many are there?
Is there a work committee by Rieu industries?
No, certainly not. I do not want that.
In Germany it does not matter if the employer wants that or not.
I know. But I do not want it. I think it is nonsense.
Our broadcast is also open for the trade union, perhaps they are watching.
I am completely open with that I think it is bad. I am good for my people and they are good for me and I
will provide for them until the end of their and my days. By the way that is also the way it is in Japan.
There are no trade unions or work councils and everything functions well.
Yes, as long as it functions well that kind of rule of course is good, but what happens when it
does not function anymore?
Yes, but why would it not function anymore? It works just fine. While we were in Japan there was not
one second of tension of discord. Yes, it was fantastic. I do not understand why I would be obligated to
get together with my work council every Monday. My thought are already 20 years further, because I of
course have to think ahead.
But what if you decide in 5 years, I don't want to do this anymore. I am going to stop with it?
I am going to live till I am 120, I am now 53. I want to continue for a long time, probably longer than my
But if you come out so openly with your opinion, it could be that you now will get mail from
the Germany trade union or from the Dutch ones, since they have similar laws.
I am aware of that.
I really would like to understand this company. I have read of a parallel between Michael
Schumacher (very successful German formula one driver, world champion) and you. I do not
know if that is true, but you can tell me.
I do not have a Ferrari.
But you do own a bus equipped as a fitness studio.
That is right. Do you have one to?
I do not know who had it first. The bus always tours with you? What kind of equipment do you
have in it?
2, so someone can run along?
Yes, exactly, it is for me but everyone can use them. I did not say anything, I also did not first discuss it
with the work committee (grins) I simply put the thing there. The first time when I showed up at
breakfast in sweats, everybody looked surprised, what is going on. After one week everybody was
Thus the fitness but is open to the staff?
Yes, exactly. It is unbelievable. It functions well on the road, which is just great. I have an exercise
program at home, but when I am on the road and we play between 100 and 150 concerts, you can not
stick to a program like that. That was also like that in America. In Japan I used another bus, since
everything there is smaller.
The treadmills are a bit smaller, but they have them of course too. Now you have done a little
acting, which we will soon see on the second channel of German TV.
That is right. I had already forgotten all about that.
Yes, it was filmed earlier, but will be broadcast later, on 2e Christmas day. It was filmed on
the dream ship.
We will show a small clip now. It looks like this. (They show short film clip) We asked Mr.
Fuchsberger if it is any good. (Joachim Fuchsberger is a well known German actor)
Fuchsberger answers: For the Dream ship too good”
Oh please, a successful series (laughs) but it was fun to do.
A cinematic bestseller. When we had the floods here in Germany, earlier this year, many
people reacted with sincerity and warmth, people were very generous for one another. It was
unfortunate that a disaster like that happened. Now you are a Dutch man, but that did not stop
you from helping the German flood victims very much. How did that happen and why did you
say I want to help also with this disaster.
During the time we were in the middle of our German tour. Every day we experienced the German
audience and all around us were all these terrible facts. We were on the way back in the bus when my
orchestra said, we really have to do something too. Well than I called immediately Channel two of the
German TV and said we want to do a benefit concert.
You gave a large Gala concert which was very successful.
Yes, one week later everything was ready to go.
A lot of money was donated due to the concert, which was wonderful. You even wrote a song
or composed something for it.
Yes, the composition was already vague in my mind and then I called my brother Jean-Philippe the
same night, because I compose together with him. We immediately went to the studio and put the music
on paper, and that composition we played during the broadcast of the benefit concert for the first time.
In the TV garden. That was at least the environment.
I have to say that it was an emotional moment.
Let's briefly listen. (short clip of 'Heroes' during benefit concert)
Thus the composition which you actually already had in your head then was the trigger,
Exactly, it was already vaguely there and then we really put our heads together that night and under the
influence of these terrible things which we saw during that time, did we say this is it.
A beautiful commitment and it was very successful. Thus to that extent we gladly mention to
it again. We cordially thank you for it, especially in the name of those who benefited from it. I
also thank you very much for this discussion. I would like to ask; Will the piece actually be on
I believe that it is on the CD.
It is on it, yes? When does the CD come out? We will refer to it again, so more people will
It comes out on Monday. (November 4) (Mobile phone rings loudly)
What is that?
You did not turn of your cell phone?
No, I am sorry. (Cell phone is still ringing, loudly)
What is that for a ringing sound? (Everybody laughs)
I do not know, I deleted it.
Okay, maybe they will call again. That was a cool ring, just like the phones of the fifties.
Thank you for your visit, Andre Rieu.