Orchestra Leader Andre Rieu:”Having fun, crying, laughing”.
“I really want to make music”
All over the world, Andre Rieu and his orchestra are achieving great triumphs.
The maestro about his road to success: “You can putter around all your life and say that you
are unhappy. But then, do something about it.”
Americans call Andre Rieu the”New Johann Strauss”. And along with that, the Maastrichter
Paganini has several other nice titles. During the last ten years, the Limburger
violinist/orchestra leader and his Johann Strauss Orchestra have managed to fill arenas from
Chili to Japan and from the US to Europe, and have sold platinum records. “I like to bring a
little bit of joy to the people” the Maestro says often.
That’s what he missed the most when he was a violinist with the
Limburg Symphony Orchestra. Performances by Rieu and his
orchestra radiate cheerfulness and a positive attitude. It is an
important part of Rieu’s ironclad concept of making music, quite
against the normal manner in which classical music is performed.
In the six part series “Andre Rieu on the way to New York” the
whole Rieu entourage was being followed and filmed last year
by one hundred people while they were on tour in the US.
Cameras everywhere, during the performances, practices, in
the busses, during the packing and on the streets, even in
between the American concert attendants of all ages, who are totally in awe about the
Maestro and his Orchestra.
Rieu describes himself as strict and a perfectionist, but also as a caring and humorous
leader who has his fingers on everything. But foremost, he is and will always be a
musician/entertainer who immensely enjoys what he does. During the conversation we had
about the television series, it came to light that here too the maestro was involved in the
production of the series and he left nothing to chance.
That the reserved Limburger wanted to participate in a road soap, a
variation of a documentary/soap, will surprise many.
Rieu: “As soon as the soap about Frans Bauer (Well know Dutch
singer. During his soap cameras were all over his house) started, I
received a call from the producer, Renout Oelemans, and he asked
me if I wanted to do that too. NO WAY”, was my answer. “I do not
want cameras in my house, especially in the bathroom. If others want
to do that, it is their business, but I will not do it”.
ENTOURAGE OF ONE HUNDRED PEOPLE
The TROS, (Dutch TV station) the station that since 1995 has been a
household name with the Rieu's, managed to change his mind. “Finally we managed to find
a happy medium. Film only when we are on tour, and during a specified time frame. It is my
material, I even selected the camera people and I determined what goes or does not. So far
of what I have seen, it looks good”.
“Why did you agree?”
“I wanted to really show the people what I exactly do here in
the south. People do not realize what all it entails and how big
all this is.” When the Rieu circus is on tour it is definitely large.
Half the entourage of a hundred people is made up of
orchestra members. And lots of stuff is being hauled along.
The Rieu company coordinates everything themselves. Andre
Rieu e.g. brings his own catering service along, as well as all
his decorative elements, such as runners, carpets and even
chandeliers to change an old drab building into a romantic
oasis for his fans. “We have four of everything. Everything
that you see on stage as well as back stage, we have four of”.
Even that little red couch for his dressing room, which naps
so nicely. “So, if we play tonight in Paris and tomorrow in New York, that is only possible
because everything was shipped there in advance in containers”.
Besides being an excellent musician, Andre Rieu is also and foremost an entertainer. This
combination was the foundation of his dream; his own orchestra with which he could bring
classical music to a large public. Rieu’s methods of making classical music popular brought
many a staunch classical music critic to the surface some twenty years ago. But the maestro
has proven himself right with a million plus over-enthusiastic public. His repertoire has since
exceeded the Strauss Waltzes and even has a gospel choir joining his tour this year.
When did the dream to have your own orchestra start?
“When I was playing with the Limburg Symphony Orchestra and
thought: “Oh boy, this is not the way to make music for the rest of
your life. But actually, the foundation was laid when I was at the
conservatory. I found all of it to be very serious. I wanted to make
music in a different way. I wanted to make “real” music, and that
entails everything; having fun, laughing, crying. It is not only the
technical and superficial presentation, which is mostly the norm and
very prevalent in the classical music world. People want to be
entertained. Entertainment is not a dirty word. It belongs”.
How does an interview between you and a prospective musician progress?
“I can tell within two minutes whether some one can play or not. Sometimes sooner. Along
with that, his body language is important. Most of the time we size one another up. The
dialogs are not all that lengthy”. Laughingly he says: “When some one asks right away how
much they will earn and how much vacation they will receive, that does not portray a good
Andre Rieu was brought up in musical surroundings. His father was conductor of the
Limburg Symphony Orchestra, and a few of his five brothers and sisters became
professional musicians just like Andre.
After his final exam from the conservatory in Brussels, he played with the Limburg Symphony
Orchestra. In 1989 he went and followed the voice of his heart's desire; to make classical
music with his own orchestra appealing to large crowds. It was a big step into the unknown
for a man with a good job and a family.
“The deciding moment was when my wife, Marjorie told me to leave that orchestra since I
was totally unhappy there”. “You have a dream” she said, “Make it a reality. I will go and
earn a living for a while”. And that is what she did. “At that time in my life I also realized that
making choices is also important for success and happiness. You can putter around your
entire life and say you are unhappy. But than do something about it”.
Were there ever moments of doubt?
“No. Never. Well…very early on I said a few times: I am not
going to do this anymore. Then my father-in-law said (He
was a Jewish refugee from Berlin who had lost everything
twice due to both World Wars); “No my boy, you started it,
now finish it. Otherwise you will be sorry”. So actually I have
to thank him for it all”.
“I roamed around for seven years trying to secure a record
contract. They laughed at me in Hilversum. I was not
successful mainly because I was an unknown. But after seven years it happened. And with
tremendous results. I managed to sell 850,000 cds in this country alone, and no one has
ever been able to top that. Not even an international artist”.
Rieu smiles and leans back a bit. He is still enjoying that thought.
GOOD NATURED LIMBURGER
“The Second Waltz” in 1994 brought enormous success. “Yes, I am very proud of that. And
that with a composition of Sjostakovitsj, ha, ha. It was very nice”. In the meantime Rieu is
living his dream and brings people from all over the world in contact with different forms of
not just only classical music. Above all he presents to his public a fun filled evening, where
swaying, clapping and dancing is encouraged and expected. Andre Rieu is one of very few
international stars in the Netherlands. In spite of all that he remains exceptionally common.
He is seen to be a strict but caring father to his orchestra members. “Do you have your
jacket with you? It is kind of cold in the hall”, he will ask and he babbles in his Limburg
dialect with the man who stores all his stuff. Privately Rieu has been very happy with his
Marjorie for more than thirty years, and enjoys building and restoring things since he was a
youngster. (At this moment he has a Victorian greenhouse in scaffolds in the garden of his
Is it hard to hang onto those things when your fame has
become so huge?
“I know there are people who go crazy. But fame, what
is that? Fame only exists in the minds of the people, not
in the soul of the individual who is being famous. Some
people may feel different about that, but not me. Maybe
because of my wife, who looks at everything quite
different. I am still the same, only the circumstances
What is most important that fame has given you?
Without hesitation: “Freedom, I can determine what I do, when or where”.
“To continue on like we are doing now. I would like nothing better than to continue on just
the way we are. It is going well”.