Andre Rieu: "I like to keep things in perspective".
From the Dutch newspaper "Algemeen Dagblad" Oct 28, 2006
Translation Ineke Cornelissen/Sonja
“The first violin”
Connoisseurs of classical music despise the way he popularizes this genre, but with 20
millionrecords sold, the public knows where to find André Rieu. “I hate people who think
they are better than others”.
Passport of Andre Rieu:
Born: October 1st, 1949 Maastricht, Netherlands
Education: After the Gymnasium he studies violin on the conservatories of Maastricht, Liege
and Brussels. He gets lessons of master violin players Jo Juda and Herman Krebbers.
Career: Andre Rieu starts the “Maastricht’s Salon Orchestra” while still playing for the
“Limburg Symphony Orchestra”. As leader of the Johann Strauss Orchestra (1987) he
starts a dazzling career. The CD “Strauss & Co” is a top-hit, his concerts a happening. In
the mean time, Rieu sold more then 20 million CD’s all around the world.
Private: Married to Marjorie, father of 2 sons, Marc (28) and Pierre (25).
Interviews with Andre are scarce. Musicians don’t talk much and the violinist and orchestra
leader has a love-hate relationship with the media.
According to Rieu, the “quality press” once reported about a "threatening bankruptcy" of the
violin player and his orchestra. Confusing an advance payment of a record company and
treating it as a dept. “The NRC Handelsblad (a "quality" Dutch newspaper)- wrote journalism
that was at the same level as the gossip magazines, the article then was simply copied by
"Der Spiegel” (German newspaper) and many others..
When he is back in the Netherlands, Rieu resides in his caste at the foot of the “St. Pietersberg” in Maastricht.
He lives in idyllic surroundings, the reception room looks like a fairy tale that could have originated in palace
Schönbrunn in Vienna.
Rieu looks like a real lord of the castle. Long and meticulously combed hair, searching eyes behind round glasses,
an ochre colored jacket and matching slippers in classical fashion. “I have five pairs in different colors. I have them
tailor-made, since one foot is bigger then the other.”
Coffee is served in classical porcelain cups and “abrikozenvlaai” with whipped cream is served.
Here I feel wonderful, says the world traveler who just has 4 concerts in Japan behind him There he played the
three refrains of Kojo no tsuki (Moonlight) again, a very sad melody. Which literally means the old castle. It brings
the Japanese people back to their old culture.
When I play it I see hundreds in tears. Very touching
No matter how far Rieu and his orchestra are from home -the tour to America and Canada is about to start-,
Maastricht is his home-town, Limburg his stomping-grounds. “When we performed on the “Vrijthof” (city square of
Maastricht) it was one big feast of reconciliation. The atmosphere of friendship buzzed among the squares, streets
and alleys. During those days I spoke to Theo Hiddema, a lawyer who is born and raised here, but who now
works in Amsterdam. ‘Andre, he said, if you witness this, you know why everybody north of the big rivers needs to
see a psychiatrist’.”
As a son of a classical conductor, Rieu could not hide from music. “the world was divided in two parts, musicians
and other people. But I had a good childhood, and luckily father did witness the beginning of my big success.”
Rieu SR also conducted youth orchestra’s, where he exposed young people to classical music. . In the old “Staar”
building, he was also involved in the Carnival concerts. This too was frowned upon by the ‘establishment’, says
Andre. Especially when at the end of the concerts he would play some waltzes and the people would start to move
to the tune.
As a young boy I was enticed by this lively music, but for the connoisseurs this was ‘not done’.
Since the old days classical music is monopolized by the 'happy few'. I think that is dreadful.
People who feel themselves better than someone else. Elitists who claim the Classics. The
so-called upper-class who feel that because of their taste they are better than the common
“In their time Mozart, Bach and Haydn -for hundred ducats (=money)- would write nice
melodies to order. Professional composers. They did nothing but entertain the people.
By-the-way, in the past Andre van Duin (a now famous Dutch comedian) was not accepted
either. I now see lawyers and notaries attending my performances as well. Why not? Because
it is not allowed by the Amsterdam “grachtengordel” (the upper class) or the incestuous
Hilversum (media) where they try to determine the “taste” of Holland?
For that matter: Andre van Duin at the time was not allowed either. (Andre van Duin is a
comedian, I have a clip in which Andre van Duin visits Andre Rieu at his house and he gets
Andre Rieu to play a saw) I now see lawyers and doctors in my audience and why not.
Because the Elitists think they have to decide the taste of the Netherlands?
I love it when the audience goes crazy with enthusiasm. That just happens on its own. I do not
scream; and now everyone, or I wand to see hands. I open up all my senses to get a feel for
the audience so I can play to it.
At the same time I have to be very strong physically to be able to do this. I walk every day at
least five kilometers (3 mile) and I watch what I eat. Our tours are draining, airplane in and out,
the time differences, the long drives in our buses, strange food.
Besides Stehgeiger (literally standing violinist) Andre considers himself a civilized entertainer.
The laugh in classical music was always unacceptable. But certainly for the works of Johann
Strauss, who was such a genius and wrote such beautiful compositions, merriment is a requirement.
I like to keep things in perspective. There is not a meeting here without a burst of laughter. Humor is so
important. I cannot go a day without witticism. In which Godfried Bomans and Toon Hermans (Dutch comedians)
were such shining examples.
From the orchestra Rieu demands unconditional loyalty to his idea of being professional. With passion: “What we
do, must be real” If a musician only plays to make money, he gets fired immediately.
In that I am very tough. I possess a sixth sense for people who do not experience but who only endure.
I do much for my orchestra, a children's nursery, for instance, but I expect from my people that they radiate
enjoyment in their music. Our sick leave is 0.1 percent. At the beginning of the vacation some of the orchestra
members cry, because we do not see each other for a few weeks. The atmosphere in the group is fantastic. We
are one large traveling family.
For his sons Marc and Pierre Andre Rieu was a strict, but fair father. “I have raised my boys with norms and
values. In that instance I agree wholeheartedly with Balkenende (politician in Holland). Six hours at home meant
six hours at home! I like decency and attach importance to good manners. That way you can give each other
Marc paints and studies art history. He is a dreamer, a romantic soul. And a human Ipod, so much musical
knowledge in his head. He also has a perfect pitch and an eye for detail. Pierre is more down to earth. He has
worked for me since he was 19 years old. As tour manager he makes sure everything is in order during our
concert tours. He just came back from Babelsberg in Germany, from the renowned UFA movie studio’s. Yes,
perhaps we will perform at the Gelredome. Pierre is trying to find decors that look like the Palace Schonbrunn.
About his wife Marjorie, to who he has been married for more than thirty year, Andre says he is still head over
heels in love. Marjorie is a manager in the company. Meanwhile 150 people now work for the company. Marjorie
has just as I everything to do with music. Her Jewish father escaped just before the World War II from Berlin to the
Netherlands. His only possession was his suitcase with records with music form the 20th and 30th.
Marjorie is my conscious, my senses, She watches over me. Sometimes I say to her while we watch TV: “If I ever
become like that guy there on TV will you drag me of the stage immediately.
She then solemnly promises that to me.