POP STAR LIFE OF A MAESTRO
James Rampton is welcomed to the new TV series "World of André Rieu" who outsells teenybop legends and lives in a fairytale castle.
Sunday Express: It is official: André Rieu is bigger than Bieber. The popular Dutch violinist and conductor outsells every other male recording artist on the planet. Performing on his priceless 1667 Stradivarius, the "King of the Waltz" has shifted more than 35 million albums worldwide. Last year he and his Johann Strauss Orchestra played to more than 700.000 people. Look out Sir Elton. André is equally beloved on TV. Whwen SkyArts2 changed its name to SkyArtsRieu for two weeks in March and April, the viewing figures went through the roof. He was catapulted to fame playing Shostakowich's Second Waltz at half time in the 1995 European Champions League Final in Amsterdam, and his combination of catchy tunes (Ravel's Bolero, Strauss' beautiful Blue Danube) and brilliant showmanship is irresistible to millions of fans. The sheer joy of his playing is captured in a new 10-part series: André Rieu: Welcome to my world on SkyArts2 HD from Saturday 26th of October. It tracks André from Maastricht to Mexico and zooms in on such guests as Jermaine Jackson, who sings a moving tribute to his brother Michael The series also included a poignant episode dedicated to war veterans.
Heartthrob André has more underwear thrown at him on stage than Tom Jones and his most ardent aficionados daub messages of love on the wall outside his home in his native Maastricht. He laughs it off, saying: "I can't complain. I hear stories that other artists have stalkers". André is devoted to his childhood sweetheart Marjorie. They met when he was 11 and she was 13 and they married in 1975. Their son Marc is an acclaimed artist and son Pierre helps to run his father's company.
To underline his superstar status, the family live in a 15th century "De Torentjes" Castle in the heart of Maastricht. A beautiful Orangery houses rare birds, butterflies and exotic plants and an ornate drawing room adorned with grandiose chandeliers and elegant antique furniture. A couple of Marc's impressive oil paintings hang on the gilded walls. The Musketeer d'Artagnan is said to have eaten his last breakfast in the castle kitchen before perishing, scaling the Maastricht city walls. "Isn't that incredible?" he says, and I eat here every day". André had piano lessons in the castle as a child and the 64 year old Maestro recalls: "I am a fan of Tintin and there is one page where the professor buys a castle. As a little boy I thought: That's what I want. It is a little bit smaller than the one in Tintin, but it's still a castle".
De Torentjes refelects André's success, but what makes his music so popular? "I deliberately build the program each night so that it starts very slowly and tenderly. Then it gradually builds to a climax. It's like sex", he reveals. "After my concert fans tell me that they need two weeks to come down and be able to say: "I am normal again". I want my concerts to give people emotions and joy. That's what music is for. I want to make the audience cry, laugh, dance and not want to go home. That's why I do this. It gives me a great feeling".
ONE OF THE HIGHLIGHTS IS WHEN VETERANS MARCH IN TO IT'S A LONG WAY TO TIPPERARY
He hopes that "Andre Rieu, welcome to my world" will have a similar effect. "I only have one goal with this: to touch viewer's hearts. Wherever they live. I want them to look at the screen and think: "Oh my God, I want to be at that concert". Viewers may be particularly affected by the veterans' episode. To be broadcast on Remembrance Sunday . André flies over the White Cliffs of Dover to meet Dame Vera Lynn. He says: "It was such a privilege. She is 96 and her voice is still amazing. She's the boss". It also features the memorable day when André invited more than 3000 war veterans to a concert on the main square in Maastricht, to thank them for their war service. André recollects: "One of the highlights for me was the very beginning of the concert: 1000 veterans marched into the Vrijthof to the music played by my orchestra, including: It's a Long Way to Tipperary, and Johnny comes Marching Home. To see all these brave service men and women in full uniform march in to the square gave me goose bumps and made me feel so proud.
It was very special for me because one of the veterans that night actually liberated Maastricht. My life would not be the same without them. I will never forget what they did for my family".
André's populist approach to classical music has attracted some criticism from snootier reviewers, but he loathes snobbery adding: "Most of those critics have never been to one of my concerts". He has already scheduled 150 concerts for next year and does not envisage retiring. "I want to live to 120 and still be performing". To millions of fans, no doubt.
Thank You to Edna Welton and Ineke