Interview with musical phenomenon André Rieu
Algarve Lifestyle Magazine had the absolute pleasure and honour of interviewing the one and only André Rieu. A dream come true! With his Johann Strauss Orchestra, André has created a revival in waltz music worldwide and has received over 480 Platinum Awards, three Classical Brit Awards for “Album of the Year”, and billions of Youtube views.
It’s a fantastic achievement after so long of playing for your musicians, considering it’s a massive team and orchestra. What inspires you and your team, even in the face of adversity? To overcome and always remain steadfast and optimistic?
The main inspiration comes from the love for the music itself; have I ever told you that the waltz – both playing and dancing this magnificent dance – is very healthy? A waltz a day keeps the doctor away! Besides the music, it’s the endless loyalty from my musicians and fans who kept believing in the power of the music. Thanks to that, I kept being positive; from the pandemic’s beginning, I said it would last for two years, and so it did!
Is your orchestra Johann Strauss Orchestra still the largest private orchestra in the world?
Yes, it is. I founded this orchestra in 1988 with only twelve young and talented musicians; meanwhile, more than 60 men and women joined me on stage – some of them have been in the orchestra since the beginning, isn’t that great? I gave the orchestra the name of the one and only true King of the Waltz, Johann Strauss; thanks to him, we make so many people happy worldwide.
Tell me, how long have you owned and played your 1667 Stradivarius violin? May I ask how you came about it?
I owned it for a couple of years; it was one of the first instruments the Italian master made; I think he was in love when he created this piece of art because whilst playing it, I sensed a lot of passion. Nowadays, I play on another Stradivarius – as a matter of fact, one of the last instruments he made. He reached 91 and kept making string instruments until the last day of his life. So unique and inspiring!
Is there a Stradivarius that you would love to play? If so, which and why?
Not a specific instrument, to be honest. I’m happy and feel fortunate that I can play on one now; I also wish that young and talented people get the chance to play on a Stradivarius.
The most outstanding achievement in life?
Being able to have an orchestra of my own; feels like a big family! And not only that: I’ve always dreamt of having such an orchestra with which I could travel the entire world and make people happy with my repertoire.
You live in a castle in Maastricht. Is this where you had piano lessons in the same castle as a child? If so, is there still a piano in the same place where you had your lessons?
No, there isn’t one anymore. But I was fortunate enough to purchase this castle a few decades ago. As a young boy, I loved the comic novels from TinTin; his best friend, Captain Archibald Haddock, bought the castle Marlinspike and then wanted to have a castle like myself. So now, I am the owner of an actual castle. Another dream came true!
You have a rare collection of wild butterflies and their house, which you built with your blacksmith. Your Ferrari is a butterfly house; where does your love of butterflies come from?
I don’t know exactly, but their metamorphosis always surprised me: they begin their lives as a caterpillar, and suddenly, wonderful butterflies appear in all the rainbow colours. They do not live very long, and that fragile life is beautiful. Their way of flying is also very relaxing; I love being in my Orangerie with nothing but quietness around me. Silence is the most beautiful music there is, haha!
Pierre has your love of architecture and is an architect. Do you think you would have had less fun as an architect than as a musician and conductor?
I can’t live without music, that’s for sure. But if I hadn’t become a musician, I would have become an architect; music and architecture are about harmony. I still love decorating and designing objects and houses – the Orangerie I just talked about is also a uniquely personal design.
Your music breaks barriers, and the waltz epitomises that. Music brings together people from all walks of life and unites them instead of dividing them.
True! Music doesn’t need words to be understood, and I am sure that the world would be such a different place if everybody played an instrument instead of a weapon. World peace could be achieved a lot quicker, then! From outer space, no more boundaries can be seen; that’s why I would love to be the world’s very first artist to perform on the moon!
Your Father was a conductor and sadly passed when you started the Strauss Orchestra.
Correct, shortly after raising the Johann Strauss Orchestra, I had to say goodbye forever to him; luckily enough, he was able to congratulate me on my first success. “Only one man can do it this way, and that’s you!” I’ll treasure this quote forever!
I think it’s fair to say that The Waltz has been firmly placed on the global map with special thanks to your energy and forever happy and beautifully positive, uplifting manner.
That’s right, and that is all thanks to Johann Strauss. I’m sure the man was a genuine pop star during his own life; he, too, travelled around the world, had a lot of (feminine!) fans and had success on all the continents of the globe. If he had lived in the 21st century, he would have thousands of followers on Instagram, and many women would take selfies with him!
What made you switch from piano to violin at age 5?
I didn’t switch; I was born into a musical family; all my sisters and brothers played an instrument, all of which our mother chose. She thought that the violin would suit me best, and she was right; no other instrument can capture my inner feelings so well. Thanks, Mum!
Favourite memorable places you have performed in concert? Surely, the champions league semi-finals between Ajax Amsterdam and FC Bayern München in 1995?
That was a magical performance; I had never experienced the power of a football match. When I played in the centre of the field with 60.000 people singing along with my melodies, it gave me goosebumps all over my body!
Most people you have played for?
In that football match, more than 60.000 people! But there was also an open-air concert in Australia where 35.000 bought a concert ticket to see my orchestra and me. Those concerts are truly unforgettable!
Table for dinner, you and five others; who would they be?
My wife, Johann Strauss, Albert Einstein, Jules Verne and Karl May!
How do you relax & unwind?
Reading a lovely novel from Ken Follett, for example, walking with my wife and dogs, playing Sudoku puzzles, spending time with my grandchildren or simply sleeping, haha!
Your good lady wife (Marjorie) a true partnership in the set and design production. What are the secrets of your successful marriage for over 40 years?
We share the same sense of humour, trust each other more than 100% and give each other the freedom to go wherever we want. She knows my needs, and I know the same about hers. And we both believe in the magical power of music!
Upcoming concerts in 2023:
Barcelona, 12. March 2023 – Palau San Jordi
Madrid, 14. March 2023 – WiZink Center