Musical maestro Andre Rieu talks exclusively to the “Friend”
Violin virtuoso André Rieu tells Alex Corlett of the delights in store for his fans on his new tour.
FOR over 30 years, Dutch violinist André Rieu has brought a sense of spectacle to his classical concerts, thrilling hundreds of thousands of fans all over the world.
In the process, many would argue, he has opened up the world of classical music to a wider audience, taking it back to its roots as the “pop” of its time, enjoyed by anyone and everyone.
A tireless tourer, André is back in the UK this winter. So what can fans look forward to on the night?
“Every concert is a unique experience, for my orchestra and me as for the audience,” André says.
“For this year’syears show we prepared a complete new repertoire, filled with a lot of surprises. Of course, we will play wonderful waltzes, but also well-known melodies from movies, beloved arias from musicals and operas, and so much more.
“There will be lovely sopranos, our loyal Platin Tenors, and, obviously, the world’s largest private orchestra, my Johann Strauss Orchestra and choir.
“My concerts are quite different every evening!”
André’s concerts are well-known for featuring fireworks, dancers and vibrant costumes. Was this always what he had in mind when he started the orchestra?
“When I was young, I only had one dream: to travel the world with an orchestra of my own, playing music I chose.
“The Johann Strauss Orchestra was formed back in 1988 with twelve young, talented musicians, some of them only just graduated from the conservatoire.”
The great show they put on, André explains, is only to enhance “the magical power of the waltz”. And it really must have some magic to it, as Andre has barely missed a show in all his years of touring.
“A couple of years ago I had to postpone a tour because of health issues, but that is the only time I wasn’t able to play.
“Don’t forget that it is not really work that I’m doing – it is a hobby that got out of hand a little bit!
“Playing – and dancing – waltzes is good for one’s health: a waltz a day keeps the doctor away!
“Besides having the most wonderful job in the whole world, I take very good care of my health. I have a personal trainer with whom I do exercises on a regular basis. Three or four times a week, you can find me in the gym.
“I also eat nutritious and fresh food. On tour, we have our own catering team with three marvellous chefs, who surprise us every time with delicious meals.”
“After the performance, I have a little chat with some members of the orchestra. We’ll share a drink, then head to our hotel or go home, depending on where we are at that moment.
“My father-in-law used to
say, ‘Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.’
“Well, although I don’t go to bed very early, I’ll consider myself rather healthy because of my lifestyle; wealthy, because of my five gorgeous grandchildren; and wise, because I married the most magnificent woman in the universe!”
Not everyone knows that the violin in the virtuoso’s hands is actually a Stradivarius, made by the famous Italian family around 300 years ago.
Most of them are now worth millions, and as a result André’s has its very own bodyguard.
“It’s true, it does! I feel very privileged to be the proud owner of this violin, as it is one of the very last instruments the Italian master m made.
“This piece of art – there is i no other way to describe my violin – dates from 1732. Every Stradivarius has a sound of its own. I compare mine always with the radiant, warm sound of the soprano Maria Callas.”
It’s a good thing he’s at ease with his violin, because together they play an astonishing number of pieces without the benefit of any sheet music to prompt his memory. How many pieces does André know off by heart?
“I’m afraid I’ve lost count! It must be a huge number. During the concerts I am the only one on stage without a score, so all pieces have to be played by heart.
“Not so easy, especially when you realise that I also have to remember the texts in order to announce the compositions we are playing, and I have to conduct my orchestra. I am what they call a ‘stehgeiger’: a standing violinist who conducts at the same time, like Johann Strauss used to do.
“But I love it, and when the audience starts to smile, I know I have chosen the correct profession!”
For André, it’s always the reaction of the fans that makes the evening memorable.
“All kind of emotions are allowed during my concerts; there are absolutely no rules or laws to follow! When you feel happy, please laugh; when you feel sad, don’t be afraid to show your tears; do not be ashamed to show your feelings. Only then the atmosphere will be unique and hard to forget.
“And that’s exactly what makes my concerts a oncein-a-lifetime experience: everything you see is real and authentic, 100% reality, 0% fake! I can’t wait to be on the UK stage again!” ■
André in the Christmas spirit.
André in position as a “stehgeiger”.
A young André Rieu in Maastricht.
Every Stradivarius has its own sound. Three generations of the Rieu family. André’s tours are known for their sense of spectacle.