Readers ask André Rieu
Sent to me by Gisela from Germany/ Translated by Sigrid in Australia/Sonja
Newsclick Feb. 2007
André Rieu receives three of our readers for an interview.
The master of the castle is at ease. With a smile Rieu receives our readers to his castle in
Maastricht. It could be the joy about his new Orangerie, it might be the skill of the professional
charmer Rieu’s mood which fulfils all Maastricht-Criteria. The classical-pop-star even remains
at ease when the sleeve of a jacket comes precariously close to a Meissen figurine.
Arms linked with André Rieu: In his castle, the Dutch success-musician welcomes our readers
Liana Strzeletz, Ute Baumgart and Ulrich Mey (from left).
Liana Strzeletz: Have you really, in the widest understanding, been a “wunderkind”?
No, neither in the widest nor in the closest understanding. I loved to play the violin, that was it.
Today, I am even of the opinion that these talks about “wunderkinder” is almost dangerous.
That a wunderkind grows into a happy person is an exception, and it makes no difference if it is
sports or music; I know about some very sad stories. And does any three-year-old really long to
practice? I have my doubt about that, even with the Asian people, who experience a totally
different upbringing in regards to what they are expected to do.
Liana Strzeletz: Your father was a conductor and you carry his first
name. Was it intended that you should follow in his footsteps?
Well, we were six siblings, that would have to be considered. At
our home everything was about music, classical only. I did need
some time to understand that there are also normal people out
there, non-musicians, so to speak. I was one who would ask some
of the other children at the kindergarten “What kind of violin do you
have?”, because I thought, all people play the violin.
By the way, the question about musicians being normal has a lot to
do with what I am doing these days: I want to show those people
who do not come from a classical background, that musicians can
be absolutely normal people, with feelings like any other person.
I simply do not want to come to your town to show off how fantastic we are. Of course we are,
but this is more condition than the main point.
Ute Baumgart: What is the main point: Bring joy to the people?
Exactly. The classic-purists accuse me of being an entertainer. Firstly, it is not an reproach,
and secondly, anyone who goes on stage with a violin or anything else, is an entertainer. In
German-speaking countries – only in those – there is always talk of a difference between S-
and E-Music. (E- und U-Musik). I don’t see it that way. I know only bad and good music. Queen
for example is, in my opinion a fantastic group. It is a pity that the lead singer has already
passed on, he was a genius. But – is this now S as in Serious or E as in entertaining?
No, I offer my heart, you offer your heart and then we will both have a wonderful evening. I have
been in it long enough to know how to construct a program. I know how, no worries, I take the
audience by the hand and guide it through the evening.
Ute Baumgart: Do you yourself still have to practice a lot?
Of course, I practice every day. When I am at home it is a bit
more difficult, because there is always something going on. If
you don’t tell my wife: I prefer to be on tour, everything is
more organised and routine, and I sit with my violin in my
hotel room. We are a Repertoire-Orchestra, we are able to
play about 200 tunes at the drop of a hat. More than half of
the members have been with me for more than 15 years, but
one can always improve by fine tuning.
Liana Strzeletz: Together for so long? Like a large family?
Yes, something like that. We do know each other very well musically. Just yesterday was a
moment when one made a small mistake. Then all I have to do is look up, so he knows that I
heard it. He won’t do it again, ever.
It is very important that the one who is at the front, also shows why he is
in this position. I came across many conductors who really did not have
the right to stand there. One could do as one pleased – they did not
Ulrich Mey: How do you handle it if a few of your people from the
orchestra are sick?
They are never sick. I employ 120 persons, fifty of them are musicians.
And they play, come hell or high water. If necessary, They will go on
even if they are half-dead. A little later they really do feel a little better.
I am very proud of them.
Ulrich Mey: Are all your musicians Dutch?
No, they come from everywhere in the world. But it is important to me that they all live close by. I
request that we go on tour together, travel together on the bus to the concerts. Of course, it can
be a stressful, but I have one attribute which I inherited from my father: I can sleep anywhere,
anytime. So, if this interview gets boring, it just might happen that I fall asleep.
Ulrich Mey: How do you keep fit?
I involve myself in some sports. Although I believe that a
happy outlook on life is important, and helps to keep you
healthy. This is why I took a difficult decision: I had not been
long with the Symphony orchestra, I had two small children
and I did need the income. But soon enough I realised: Boy, I
won’t get old around here. There was so much talk about
unions, working hours and all that. That’s why I gave it all up
even though no one, at the time knew if my dream would ever
come to pass.
Liana Strzeletz: Was it difficult to play under the baton of your father?
Yes, very difficult. In the old days, a conductor was appointed for life, and tension would
develop. In any case, when I did come home from rehearsal, my wife could take one look at my
face and would say: Oh, boy, today your father conducted the rehearsal!
Ulrich Mey: How many records have you sold?
Roughly twenty million. I am truly proud of it. In Holland, in this
small country, I sold more than 900,000 of “Strauss & Co.” within
a year. This has never ever happened before, even Michael
Jackson’s “Thriller” didn’t make it. Almost every Dutch family
owns this CD.
Ulrich Mey: Do the Golden Records also mean something to you?
No, not as much. My cupboards are full of them. But this is more
for the benefit of the record company. I am an Honorary Citizen
of the City of Maastricht, that has moved me very much. I was
born here, and I will die here – but not too soon. I am determined to turn 120, I still have lots of
Ute Baumgart: Do you engage yourself also politically?
Yes, my wife always has to hold me back, I guess she wants to hang on
to me while I am alive. That’s not a joke, especially here in Holland.
Pim Fortuyn was also a man who said what he thought, and now he is
Ulrich Mey: In which countries are you particularly successful?
Most of all in Europe and America, but we also give concerts in Japan
and Korea. Not so keen on china, though, I think China is still
pro-communist, everything is still being organised “Centrally”. The
normal, everyday Chinese people really do get not much advantage
from the growth and can’t afford a ticket to the concert. Apart from that:
The Chinese have no idea what copyrights are. They steal everything
they can lay their hands on. I am also very well known in China, but I never get to see a Euro for
Ulrich Mey: Which hobbies do you have?
At present, I am very enthusiastic about the construction of the orangerie here in front of the
door. I designed it myself, over the years, I did build a lot. Actually, apart from anything electric, I
am able to step into any trade, like plumbing, brick laying . . .
Ute Baumgart: 120 Employees – are there tensions every
now and then?
Hardly, I do try to solve upcoming problems as early as
possible. A laugh is enormously relieving! One wishes the
politicians could do it, too; but I admit that these problems are
far more complicated. I do think that the Indians had the right
approach. A few hundred people, a meeting every evening for
everybody. Then it was said: “You looked at my wife too many
times”, or something like it. and then the Chief cut in and “Hugh!”
Ulrich Mey: Is it correct that during a vibrato you still think about your first Violin-Teacher?
Of course. A part of me has remained a child. Love, erotic, even only a glance are very
important inspirations for an artist. At every concert I look for a lady who I like, a pretty face, a
happy face, and then I play for this woman.