Andre Rieu Playboy interview
There really are better violinists than I"
The successful violinist and conductor talks about the critique on his work his strict upbringing, erotica,
women and groupies, the erotic aura of the violin, happiness and bad experiences with record
Seven years ago seemingly out of the blue he captured the hearts of the popular- classical music fans.
Rieu came, played and conquered with the record ‘Strauss and Company’. (From Holland with love) The
merry waltz music became a success internationally. Every record Rieu and his Johann Strauss
Orchestra have produced since then has been a success on the international hit parades and stays on
number one for months. Nevertheless this sympathetic and charismatic man from Maastricht was often
derisively sent away by the record companies. But he carried on with his mission to bring classical
music to the people, and time proved him right. By now Rieu has grown to the most successful Dutch
entertainer ever. He is adored by millions, but is still vilified by the purists, who think that classical music
should not be tampered with. Willem Baars and Mick Boskarnp joined Rieu in the Residentie, where he
also proved to be a conductor of life, who knows very well what he wants, and what he does not want.
While he talked to Playboy there was a man at the next table who kept a close eye on a rectangular
case, as if it contained the crown jewels. He turned out to be a employee of Rieu's company.
What is that man doing with the case?
He is my Stradivarius guard.
That is the man who guards my Stradivarius and he keeps an eye on her at all times.
And he follows you like a shadow?
That is necessary because I am rather impulsive and chaotic. Before I had a Stradivarius guard, I once
even forgot to take my violin to a performance. I had finished all the preparations for the concert, got
the stage ready, made my little speech, changed clothes, stepped onto the stage and picked up my
violin ......... and there was no violin. I turned white as a ghost.
And then what?
I told the audience that something was wrong with the violin and that we would start the concert half an
hour late. I feverishly thought about what to do and called a fiend and begged him to bring me my violin
as fast as he possibly could.. Since then it has never happened again.
How do you treat your violin? Is she like a child of yours?
She goes to bed with me! This Stradivarius of mine is a splendid instrument, a unique instrument. Every
violin is totally different. Violins are not just made, they are crafted with love. You can give me ten of
these, That is the reason why searching for the right violin is so difficult.
You also said that Stradivarius built this violin when he was in love.
Absolutely, He was 22 at the time, the age to be in love. It was one of the first violins he ever built. I
immediately heard it.
What did you hear?
Look I am a violinist, right, I am not a collector, I also do not collect antiques. It does not in the least
interest me if the original varnish is on the violin or something like that. I just listen and I feel. I feel this
violin, and that is what I mean. It just feels right to me. You can compare it to seeing a beautiful woman
for the first time. Like 'Oh, wow' that feeling.
So you will never sell this violin?
I do not think so. The same thing applies to another valuable violin with which I have had many
experiences. Maybe someday I will add another one, but for now I will make do with this harem.
Because a violin is a girl, don't forget that.
Why is a violin a girl?
The shape alone (makes the shape of a playmate with his hands). You play and stroke her with you
fingers, and then the sound that she brings forth. Yehudi Menuhin always said: "If you don't play her
every day, she will run away from you". And that is true. You really have to maintain a relationship with
purists regularly say that what I do is wicked and worthless, but that is just not true.
But do you never get unbelievably mad about that?
Oh, sure. Especially in the beginning did I have trouble dealing with it. I would think, why is this, what I
am doing is good. But at a certain moment you get used to it. Especially when you notice and hear that
many people write and form their opinions without really ever having heard anything from me. But the
last few years I have noticed a change. There are now some purists who say: "I have to admit that I
formed my opinion about you without ever having heard one of your CD's, let alone that I have ever
seen one of your performances, but now that I have I have changed my opinion. What you are doing
really is good.
Is it because you have the image of a popular boy?
I have the image of the "Waltz king" of "Roy de la Valse", and that is ridiculous. I do not just play
waltzes, but they seem to think that it is fun, so I just let them be.
It really is a contradiction; you are completely from this time with music from the past.
What you say there fits very well, because I try not to see the score of a composer as a museum
piece. I do not make it my life's work to bring that museum piece back to life as close as possible. That
is not my task. I think about it this way. A score is like a book with pages in it, on those pages are black
notes and that is it. If there were no musicians, living, breathing, warm musicians, who do something
with that paper then it would only remain paper with black notes on it. A painting is still a painting, you
can at least look at it, but a score is dead. And I believe that the people who go through the trouble to
work on it have the right to do something with it to make it come alive again and make it more of today.
Of course I do this with extreme care. For my new CD I shortened Bolero from Ravel, but I was
completely aware of the responsibility I have toward the composer. Incidentally that always happens
officially. In this case I am even the first person who received official permission from the Ravel family
and the producer to shorten Bolero.
Why did you shorten Bolero?
Because we now live in a much faster world.
In that time there was no radio or television and people were not in a hurry.
Then would you say the classical purists are a little stuck in the past?
That is exactly what I am saying.
And it really is not going very well with the classical music.
It is not going well at all. They don't sell anything anymore. Last year they fired 36 people from Decca
and Deutch records.
And why is that?
I think that it is a complicated story that has to do with the classical music world as well as with the
public. There is a click of people, an elite little club that is starting to wring their own necks. Because
they are so self absorbed that they do not see what is happening all around them. That little world is
getting to be so small that in each city only about 12 people would buy a new rendition of Beethoven. I
think that music, including classical music should not have rules and regulations.
How many CD's have you sold?
About ten million
Does that not make you nervous?
Not if you are prepared and have always known that some day you will succeed. I have always felt it,
even when I played with the Salon Orchestra in Maastricht for 400 people, and they went completely
But you also have had many closed doors in your life, right?
I have been to all record companies several times. I would tell them,:" here I am again". Then the door
would be slammed shut. The same jerks are still there. I think record companies are one of the
dumbest institutions in the world. They could make much more money, it is ridiculous that there is a little
man who says; "I don't like it, waltzes? Go to your grandmother, go play in Maastricht. That is the way
it has gone for years for me, and I noticed it goes that way in all countries. I am now for the first time
on the so-called priority list of my record company. That means that they decide in London which artist
gets international priority with their promotion. They do not have to do that.
But it is already going well internationally, is it not?
Yes, in Germany, France and America, Canada and Japan and South America. In Chili for instance I
have 5 platinum records. The backstreet boys are # 2 and I am on # 1. Ha, ha, ha.
How rich are you?
To express it in money is very relative. The queen of England is for instance much richer than I am.
But she is really the only one with more money?
Ha, ha. I don't think so. Oh, I am not complaining. But what is rich. I write paychecks for 120 people.
And Marjorie and I do everything ourselves. My wife and I invest everything back into the company. I
do not see myself as rich.
Is money important to you?
Yes, certainly. I think freedom is one of the biggest accomplishments a human can have and than not
just literal freedom, but also freedom of thought and freedom of action. And we happen to live in a
society were you can get this freedom by the way of money. And that is what I want with the money. I
want to have and to buy freedom.
And no Rolls Royce?
A car has to take me from point A to point B and preferably in a little comfort, because I happen to be
pretty busy, and I also kind of like an air conditioner too. But it certainly does not have to be a Rolls
Royce. I am not in the least materialistic, and I am also not jealous of people who do have a Rolls
Royce. In any case jealousy is strange to me. I wish for everybody the nicest and the very best. Just
like gloating, I do not feel that either. This is also why I do not laughingly point the finger, at all those
jerks of the record companies who wanted to send me back to Maastricht
Did you ever have any mentors, people who inspired you?
For years Herman Krebbers was my main example as a violinist. Oh, I wanted to be like him, a fantastic
man. And Leonard Bernstein that was a man after my own heart and what he did was also a bit in my
style. And he too, was torn down by the so-called purists, because he was dancing on stage and that
was not proper according to them. I thought that it was fantastic, because that is who he was. He did
not fake that.
Have you ever been jealous of violinists who are better than you are?
Oh no, everyone has their own strong points. There really are violinists who are better than I am. But
playing the violin is only part of what I do. I entertain the audience, I conduct a little, I organize. The
violin does certainly not play the leading part.
Is there still something which you would really like to do?
I would like to sing, but I can't. I would love to take the microphone and like a Toon Hermans (Dutch
cabaret artist, who did comic one-man shows. He wrote his own songs and text and has written several
books) and sing a very pretty song with a beautiful text.
Leonard Bernstein has composed West Side Story.
A genius piece of work.
Would you like to compose more?
Funny that you mention that. Together with my brother Jean-Philippe, who has composed his whole life,
I have secretly started to compose, and suddenly all kinds of things appeared. Together we composed
a waltz, which is on my latest CD. That is a start, but there will be more, you will see. It is just a matter
of investing enough time.
You said earlier that you invest everything back into your business. That must be some
I now have 11 corporations, I believe. At the moment we are in the process op restructuring the whole
organization. It is getting so big that I need new people all the time.. Right now I add about two new
employees per week.
Are you a good boss?
I think so. I pay well and I am loyal. If there is some profit, then everyone shares in it. But I do not like
bungling amateurism. And I also do not like idle running of the mouth. Then I will get impatient. Then I
think it can not be true that we are talking for over a half hour over something so unimportant. That is
what surprises me so with the politics in this country, such unbelievable waste of time with all this verbal
intercourse. Let's take the transportation problem, for example, the car, the problem of the century. We
should be able to easily solve that problem all together. Why not have high speed lanes? That would be
a solution. These days all cars can drive 180 km per hour (110 miles). But that is not allowed, because
politicians can not agree. Soon we will all be standing still. When I hear about the discussions over the
Veluwe line (de Veluwe is a nature reserve in Holland, I believe they want to put a highway through it
and have been discussing it for years), which are taking years, I think just put that thing under the
ground and get started with digging.
You seem someone who has trouble delegating things.
Look, with these two hands I even made the first chairs for the orchestra. When you are used to doing
everything yourself, then having to delegate things is something you have to learn. It can be scary to
leave important things to someone else. Now you will wonder why do you do everything exactly that
way? Why do you have your own orchestra? The reply to that is: because, I was never satisfied with
how things went by other orchestras. I wanted to break through and be able to say: boys, do it with a
little more heart and with a little more live. Then I thought I will just have to do it with my own people.
You wanted your own trademark!
Yes, to really put my own stamp on everything. And it worked too. After my own orchestra I wanted my
own stage, because I did not like them either. And things kept expanding from there. The new studio
followed and now the internet.
Everything is going very smoothly right now, is that not a little boring and predictable?
What nonsense! What is predictable now? A ridiculous notion. If you keep your eyes open and look
around you, there is something new every day. Take the internet, for example. If you say I do not need
the internet that is just like saying I do not need electricity. I will manage with candles. The possibilities
are unimaginable. I venture to predict that in five years, there will be no more TV.
But what does the internet mean for your music?
I have a lot of dreams and ideas about the internet and many of my people put a lot of time and effort
into it right now. Do you know what the fun is of the internet? In the past you had the baker on the
comer and he knew his customers, and then came Albert Hein, (large chain of grocery stores,
throughout Holland) and all the small corner stores disappeared, and with them the personal contact
disappeared too. And now with the Internet the bakery on the comer is back, because, for example,
with the current technology I can connect personally with a fan of mine in Chili.
But are you not afraid that your music will be available for free, that one can just download your
music from the internet?
I am not afraid of that at all. Stronger yet, I offer it for free. You can copy CDs and cassettes too, but
still you buy the new CD. When the paperback book was launched, everyone thought that it would be
the end of the luxury editions, but that is not what happened at all.
With all these new developments, I think, it should be nice you have children that have the age
at which they can help you keep on top of new technology.
Sure, and I listen to them too. When I tape a new recording, I always have my two sons listen to it.
What they think is very important to me.
Will they follow in your footsteps?
I have no idea. It does not really matter too much to me. I leave them free in that decision. Our child
rearing of them has been: Boys, you have to make your own life. We will see what you decide. We love
you no matter what.
You do not think it is important that the dynasty will be continued?
For heaven sake, no. Okay, I make music and it makes me happy. That is in me and it would be
wonderful if I could give that to them, but not at cost what may. You should not try to force them. I also
do not believe the stories about wonder children, from who is said that they are just able to play music.
I do not believe a fuck of it. That they are so good is because at home they are forced to study day in,
day out. My sons both played the violin when they were small and they have done some fun things with
it. But soon one did not want to play anymore and the other broke his violin over the head of his little
brother. After that it was over quickly, but they are musically inclined and they may end up on the stage,
but how and as what I have no idea
Your wife is not only your life partner but also your business partner.
Is that not a difficult combination?
Marjorie and I have accomplished this together, and sometimes you get punished for that, namely with
success. Due to the success you literally are driven apart. And in that aspect it has been good that
success has come kind of late. I do not want to think about how hard it would have been if I had sold 10
million CDs right in the middle on our infatuation stage. I would have been tom apart. But this is good,
this way we can handle it. It also happens that I always dreamed about being with the kind of woman
with who I could build a business. Since I was 12, 1 already dreamed about a woman who would work
together with me, and that dream has come true.
But now that you have come this far, do you never have the desire to once in a while put the
business aside and completely dedicate yourself to quality time with your wife?
At a certain moment, change will come. I will pull back from the whole circus around me, stay home in
Maastricht and dedicate myself to my next dream. To together with my public relive the classics, to
record all the classical music again. Then I will stay closer to home and perform less often then the
balance will shift too. But even then my wife and I will be busy with the business. When Marjorie and I
walk over the Pietersburg (Hill and Park behind Andre and Marjorie's home), we always talk about the
company. We both find it enjoyable.
Does she not find it difficult that all the attention is on you?
On the contrary. She does not like publicity, she hates it. Once she gave a press conference in Belgium,
after that she never wanted to do it again. She has something like: You go ahead and you do it. You go
and do all those interviews, as long as I do not have to do any
You were 12 when you already knew what kind of woman you wanted. Did you at that time also
know that you wanted to become a musician?
Yes, I always felt that. Of course I also had a father who was conductor and he had certain
expectations. You simply never thought about doing something else.
What kind of child were you?
I was not a perfect boy, but neither was I the class trouble maker. I was sent out of the classroom
once, and I am still proud of that. I was being difficult during geography, I think. And I was sent out.
A highpoint of your childhood.
Proud as punch, I was. But again I was not a hell-raiser. I collected all kinds of things. Once I found a
necklace, and a couple of scoundrels wanted to take it from me. I fought them like a lion. I was not
softy, but I was not really aggressive either.
Was your father strict?
Yes, he was quite strict. Everything had to happen exactly in the way he said, but he did not hit us. He
was the conductor at home too. I also thought that the world was divided in institutions instead of in
people. As a child I thought the world was divided in musicians and other people. I did not discover until
much later that that is not the case
And your mother?
My parents backed each other up and were on one line
Did you not play in your father's orchestra for a year?
There was discord in the Limburg Symphony Orchestra at the time. It was not a good year. The
Orchestra wanted to get rid of my father, because he had already been there so long and because he
represented the old standard. And I ended up literally in the middle of that mess. Not much fun. My wife
could always immediately tell if my father had been in front of the orchestra. My father was a top
musician in heart and soul, but he also was a man of tradition. He thought that as a musician you should
completely be dedicated to the music, contact with the audience was of no interest to him. I, on the
other hand, want to have contact with my audience through my music. I will dedicate myself to bring my
music as well as I possibly can, but I also want to get something out of it for myself.
Then it must not have been easy for your father when you decided to start a Salon Orchestra?
Yes, that was a little hard to swallow for him, and that I was going to play at parties was almost
unbearable for him. He had something like, what is happening now? But it was my way to develop
something for myself and it turned out to be a good thing, that I did that.
Your father passed away three years ago, he was never able to see your big success.
It is a bit longer ago, and he did see the start of the Strauss orchestra and he did have respect for that.
Would he have been proud of you?
I am sure of that.
Your parents raised you as a Catholic. Are you still religious?
I have always been irritated with the atmosphere in Church. Like: all good things come from up above
and we do all the bad things down here. Then I would think: boys this way we will not make any
progress. That was for me the catalyst to start reading a lot about it. Finally, I have decided for myself
that what the Catholic Church tries to tell us does not make sense to me. I also realized that the theater
and music that we have now, originated in the church, the singing, the acoustics, and that I carried that
with me from my childhood. But what is being said on the pulpit I do not agree with, always that
wagging finger and the interference even in the most intimate aspects of your life. Like how many
children do you have so far? Come on!!!
Are you superstitious?
Let me phrase that differently. Do you have certain rituals?
I always have a siesta, a nap, especially before a performance. Around five o'clock or so we have a
sound check, after that we get something to eat and then I will go to sleep. Always works. I inherited
that from my father.
Do you conduct like your father?
Totally different, I am not really a conductor, let's say it this way: I have never officially learned how to,
but I can conduct. As conductor I feel, you have to give impulses. An orchestra exists out of musicians
who all love to make music, and if you did well, when you put the orchestra together, then it is also a
group of people, who despite different personalities form a unit when they play together on stage.
There has to be harmony. It is the same as with a flock of birds, who suddenly all fly in different
directions, people sometimes ask how that can happen. That has everything to do with desire, a desire
which comes from the subconscious. It is something that you want to do together, and that is what
conductors have to possess; the whole orchestra will have to want to work for you. You also have to
create an atmosphere in which everybody can have a good time.
Do you talk much with the members of your orchestra?
No, we play. I hear everything and they know that, with looks and gestures I can make everything clear.
I am not strict. And I also think you can often resolve something better with a joke than with pulling rank.
So, you are kind of a natural leader?
Yes, I believe you should not stand in front of an orchestra if you do not possess that instinct, and also
not if you do not hear everything or if you do not have your own opinion.
Can you compare it with the work of a league coach?
Sure, you have to be able to lead
But you are the kind of coach who also plays the game. You are not just working with the
orchestra, but you are also very busy with the audience.
That is in my personality too. I love to look people in the eyes to make contact, I like to joke with my
audience, otherwise I would feel very lonely on the stage. I, for instance, do not want to think about
having to stand in an orchestra pit, like at the opera. Wagner started that, horrible, I did not become a
musician to play somewhere in a pit. I want to be able to enjoy it, and enjoy my audience.
Do you enjoy being the center of attention?
If you do not enjoy that you should not go on stage and certainly not front and center. It is a form of self
confirmation. Ask any psychologist. I admit that when I was still playing in the Symphony Orchestra, I
would always look at pretty girls in the audience (I think he still does, :-) ) hoping that they would look
back, and when that happened I would have a good evening.
What does erotica mean to you?
I think that erotica is woven throughout life. When you are in company of people, and you see a girl with
beautiful eyes and your eyes meet, then that can already be a form of erotica to me.
It is said that men think about sex every minute.
I surely believe that, in some way or another, but I think that does not just have to do with women. Sex,
to be stimulated, I see that broader. And your sense of smell has an important role in that too. I have a
very sharp sense of smell. A perfume can stimulate me. Beautiful memories can come back because of
In some perfumes they use ingredients which make people feel attracted to each other. In the
animal world that happens though pheromones.
I once heard that they put shit in perfume. (Laughs)
Because perfume would otherwise be to one-dimensional?
I once saw a program about fragrances and in it they said that people also like their own farts. Of
course nobody dares to admit that.
All right, we were talking about erotica. What attracts you usually to a woman?
What would the world be without women? The shape alone, beautiful. But what appeals to me in a
woman specifically is difficult to say. You can see some skin and be sold, or as I said smell a
fragrance. When I play something romantic and I happen to look at the face of a woman and she smiles
back. (Yeah!!!! Look at the picture on my Andre page, I am sure he does not remember, but I do!!!!! :-)
) What else can you want?
I always go by the saying, you can get hungry everywhere, but you go home to eat.
Do you have groupies?
There are some, yes, but it is not too bad. It was worse in the beginning, but it is also possible that in
the beginning I still had to get used to it, and you exude that, just like a dog who can feel that you are
scared of him and then he attacks. I have had a fence built around my house to make sure that we are
not bothered. You used to ring the doorbell at my home and you were immediately in the hall
But all in all, many temptations come your way ......
That is the same everywhere, a beautiful woman stays a beautiful woman, but again I eat at home.
A literal question, does a man's love go through his stomach?
I can remember that I long ago -Marjorie and I still lived in a simple apartment - came home from my
work, we did not have much. But we did have a small balcony of I meter by I meter (3ft by 3ft), at the
edge you could hang this little table. She had made a potato salad and we would eat a hot dog with it
and drink a beer, and I cannot remember ever having been as happy as at that moment.
Where would you like to be in twenty years?
I do not know, and I am really kind of glad that I do not know. However, I do hope that I will still be
making music, because I find it a thoroughly wonderful, exiting and contact making medium. I hope to
still be healthy. Your health is everything. All kinds of things can happen to you. Thank goodness, I am
Suppose, you get arthritis, did you insure your hands?
There is no insurance company which would pay what I need every month. When I say I am a musician,
the insurance companies say: we do not do that, I also do not have a substitute, and there are no
substitutes for the orchestra members either.
So, if somebody gets sick.......
There is never anybody sick. Maybe because I am never sick. I probably project that. They come
sniffling and limping onto the stage because they want to perform and that is wonderful. I am quite
proud of that. The absence due to illness is practically zero.
And for Dutch notions there is unprecedented enjoyment in the work.
Recently there has been a lot of dialogue from the unions. I am not against it but they should not
exaggerate it. I beg your pardon, but we have it very good in this country. It is the only country in the
world where you can call in sick without any explanation. The employer is lawfully not even allowed to
ask what is wrong. I find that ridiculous!, I pay everybody a salary and if that person says that he is not
coming, then I want to know why he is not coming.
How do you want to be remembered?
I do not like to think about when I am no longer here. Maybe as somebody who made a lot of music and
who made people happy with his music?
The pictures that were in
the Playboy magazine with
the Article were black and
That I think is my biggest strength. I invest as much energy and passion as possible
in everything I do. And I always try to start everything over again from scratch.
You do not run on routine?
No, when this gets to be routine it will be impossible for me to continue with it.
That starting everything from scratch is not appreciated by some. To the
critics it seems like you reinvented classical music.
There always will be people who get disgusted when they hear my name. Classical