André Rieu

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André: "Don’t be afraid to show your tears when you feel sad, and when you’re happy, give us your smile! That’s the thing with music, it’s the art form that touches your heart immediately without taking a byroad."

Issue IX Exclusive Interview Empower

Interviewed by Bhagyashree Prabhutendolkar

8th June, 2021

André Léon Marie Nicolas Rieu (born 1 October 1949) is a Dutch violinist and conductor best known for creating the waltz-playing Johann Strauss Orchestra. He and his orchestra have turned classical and waltz music into a worldwide concert touring act, as successful as some of the biggest global pop and rock music acts.

Your classical orchestras create a very unique and magical atmosphere for the audience. How do you make it happen?
André: Personally I believe that classical music is composed for everyone, not only for the elite and happy few as some people tend to think. Mozart and Strauss were genuine pop stars in their time, all men and women loved them. If they had lived in the 21st century, I bet that they would have thousands of followers on Instagram and TikTok, fans would take selfies with them! Besides that, you must not forget that all emotions are possible during my concerts – don’t be afraid to show your tears when you feel sad, and when you’re happy, give us your smile! That’s the thing with music, it’s the art form that touches your heart immediately without taking a byroad. My orchestra members and me, we’re touched by the music and when the audience sees these emotions (which are absolutely real, NO fake!), they will get touched too! All of this creates the unique and perhaps unique atmosphere, all over the world!

How do you feel when you see your audience in absolute bliss, swaying and humming and dancing along to your music?

André: That makes me so proud and then I realize I have chosen the correct profession. Isn’t it great to give such a good feeling to people with playing music? When I was young, I used to play in a symphony orchestra and although the music we played was pretty nice, there was one thing I really missed. Later on, when I founded an orchestra myself, I discovered what it was: the interaction with the audience! That’s why I became a so called Stehgeiger. This German word means that I’m conducting and playing the violin at the same time: Johann Strauss, the one and only true King of the Waltz, used to be one too. Like me, he ‘talked’ with his audience between the pieces he performed with his orchestra.

 

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Can you share your fascination and love for music with us? How has it shaped you as a person?

André:  I was born and raised in a musical family: my father was a conductor of several opera and symphony orchestras, and all his six children play one or more instruments. These were chosen by his wife, my mother. She thought that the violin would suit me best and she was right! There is no other instrument that is able to capture my inner feelings so well… As a toddler, I asked my fellow classmates: “What kind of violin do you have?” And then, my first violin teacher appeared in front of me: an 18 years old blonde girl! I was hooked, both with the girl and the music! And when I played in one of these orchestras, the next dream started: touring around the world with an orchestra of my own. Walt Disney once said: “If you can dream it, you can do it!” So I did… Since 1988, the Johann Strauss Orchestra exists: back then with only 12 musicians, meanwhile more than 60 people join me on stage! I simply can’t imagine a life without music.

 

You are a great musician and your music is adored by people around the world. Your albums have broken records and you have also won many awards, much success! But what do you consider as your greatest accomplishment in life?

André:  Of course I’m flattered by these records and awards, but the greatest accomplishment is the fact that my dream has come true. Johann Strauss, my big hero, composed so many astonishing waltzes; I devoted my life to honor him and his music. It’s so gratifying when you’re able to uplift people: music unites and that’s something I notice in every place we play. Take the concerts on the Vrijthof in Maastricht. Every concert season is closed in July with a series of concerts there; people from all over the world travel to my hometown in order to come and see us. In 2019, 90 nationalities could be counted on the square! Before the first notes are played, men and women sitting next to each other don’t know their neighbours: during the encores, they start to dance with each other, they exchange their telephone numbers and email addresses, and promise to meet again the next year. Isn’t that unbelievable?

 

Which piece of yours is the closest to your heart? Why?

André:  I’m afraid there isn’t one single piece I could mention here. As long as it has the enchanting ¾ rhythm, I’m completely mesmerized. The first time I noticed its magical power was during my father’s concerts. After the regular concert with a Mahler or Bruckner symphony, the orchestra played a waltz. And then, something peculiar happened in the audience: the men and women, who sat absolutely still and motionless in their chairs the whole evening, suddenly began to move a little bit to the left and to the right. I was gob smacked and flummoxed! What was going on there, could it be the music that caused this? Years and years later, playing waltzes myself, I saw the same thing happening with my own audience. Especially when we play Strauss’ “The Blue Danube” or “The Second Waltz” by Dimitri Shostakovich, people jump out of their seats and dance. Did you know that this ¾ rhythm has healing powers? Listen to my medical advice: “A waltz a day, keeps the doctor away!”

 

Can you tell us more about Johann Strauss Orchestra? What role has it played in your musical journey?

André:   I have two families, have I ever told you that? They are both very dear to me. First of all, there is my small family: my wife Marjorie, our two sons with their wives and of course our five wonderful grandchildren. In my violin case, five photographs of them are installed so I can see them wherever I am on tour. Because that’s my big family: my Johann Strauss Orchestra! During its formation, back in 1988, there were merely 12 young talented musicians. Nowadays, more than 60 men and women are on stage with me – some of them are there since the very beginning! It makes me so proud that we all share this one special dream: to make people happy with the music we play! We give about 100 concerts every year in all the continents of the world. Since we’re on tour so much, we share everything: happy moments, our sorrows. I hope we’re all able to do this for many years to come!

 

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If there's one thing that you want your music to create in this world and help make it a better place then what would it be?

André:  I don’t have to think about this very long: world peace of course! The world would be such a different place if we all would pick up an instrument instead of a weapon. Politicians use a lot of words and then they hope, some other people understand them; music doesn’t need any words to be understood, the emotions caused by musical notes can’t be denied. Seen from outer space, there are no boundaries anymore; it’s such a pity that a long trip like this is necessary in order to realize it. On the other hand, I still have one dream left: to be the world’s very first artist with a performance on the moon! As long as that isn’t possible, I try to ‘heal’ the world a little bit by making music a lot of people love; and as long I’m able to make people forget everything around them and enjoy our concerts, I’m a happy man.

 

If there's one thing that you want your music to create in this world and help make it a better place then what would it be?

André:  I don’t have to think about this very long: world peace of course! The world would be such a different place if we all would pick up an instrument instead of a weapon. Politicians use a lot of words and then they hope, some other people understand them; music doesn’t need any words to be understood, the emotions caused by musical notes can’t be denied. Seen from outer space, there are no boundaries anymore; it’s such a pity that a long trip like this is necessary in order to realize it. On the other hand, I still have one dream left: to be the world’s very first artist with a performance on the moon! As long as that isn’t possible, I try to ‘heal’ the world a little bit by making music a lot of people love; and as long I’m able to make people forget everything around them and enjoy our concerts, I’m a happy man.

 

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