Interview with André Rieu: "I play what comes to mind"
Hollywood is Dearer to Him Than Hamlet
NUREMBERG - January 27, 2014: André Rieu is a master of light entertainment. With his programs the violinist, orchestra leader and arranger not only fills large halls, but he is also especially well known for his mass appeal on television appearances. We wanted to know from the Dutchman, how he puts his programs together, and what he thinks of "serious" classical music and why he almost became a pizza parlor-host ...
André Rieu: Quite simple: I of course do that with my entire heart. If a piece touches me, then I know that it will also touch my audience – no matter the manner or fashion whatsoever. If I want them to cry because I already cried when I heard that song for the first time, then I arrange it so that it will then also come across to the public that way.
Nuremberg Newspaper: Could you tell us how a piece must be musically designed, so that it fits your show?
André Rieu: That's intuition. We were once in a bar with colleagues after a television production while on tour. My pianist had a thick book with all sorts of pieces which we were just playing through and I said: "If it fits; No - no - no - yes! And the guy from the production company said to me the next day: "Now I understand …., you do it just with your intuition"
Nuremberg Newspaper: Does the music have to be "beautiful"?
André Rieu: That depends. Beautiful can just be relative. One finds Mozart beautiful, the other one not. Still others feel Wagner's "Ring" entertaining and more beautiful than an operetta by Offenbach. We play music which I find touching and which appeals to me. And that is mostly nice, yes.
Nuremberg Newspaper: And you can often clap along with you ...
André Rieu: That is not the case with all of the pieces. You know, today there are more and more people studying me and wonder: "What André’s secret is." They analyze me from right to left and from top to bottom (laughs). They have all sorts of explanations that I transform classical music into a single sausage. That my audience goes home incredibly happy, no one speaks of that.
Nuremberg Newspaper: Could you tell us, whom from today’s composers you like best?
André Rieu: I think Andrew Lloyd Webber is a brilliant composer, he has written many wonderful pieces.
Nuremberg Newspaper: What would happen if you would ever perform an entire Beethoven symphony?
André Rieu: I would never do that. Because, I would feel too restricted. I know the entire classical music and I have lived in it, my father was a conductor. I know it all and I would never do that. Maybe you can compare that with an actor who wants to play "Hamlet". But there are also many others who instead go to LA, make famous movies and by that make them feel so much better.
Nuremberg Newspaper: And you will not play "Hamlet" in a theater but rather in a big Hollywood movie?
André Rieu: I think so, yes. I have a good relationship with Anthony Hopkins, and he says that too. When the intellectual critics ask him: "Why do you play in such a movie, while you can perform Shakespeare in London in the theater?" – He the answers: "I do it for the money" (laughs), and then they all change their tune. No, I would not say it so blatantly "just for the money" - but a Beethoven symphony, that would make me feel too restricted.
Nuremberg newspaper: Why "restricted?" Isn’t that beautiful music?
André Rieu: No, not an entire symphony that would bore me. I would take the most beautiful parts from there if I would do that. I would take a part of the symphony, shorten it and then make a hit out of it. Besides, there are enough classical orchestras in the world who play that completely. Our success is that we are totally very different. Thus we appeal to an audience which might not dare to enter the great concert halls. Mahler, Bruckner, Bartok are all "too heavy". With us they feel at home. There are people who have not danced in years. With us they stand up and do that, that's fantastic.
Nuremberg Newspaper: Do you then play Mozart's "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik" in its entirety?
André Rieu: No, only the most beautiful parts. Our evenings are not concert evenings in the "classical" sense. There are always potpourris.
Nuremberg Newspaper: In classical music there is much drama and conflict. Do you prefer the joyful side of the Classics?
André Rieu: Yes. Conflicts and drama, that is all well and good, but not for me while on stage. I have had enough conflict and drama in my life; I like the sunny side of life. One can easily compose an evening with drama and everything else - but it's much harder to make the people laugh. I like that much better. Besides: In every German or Dutch small town there is a symphony orchestra playing all these symphonies. I know them all, every one - but for me that is too boring.
Nuremberg Newspaper: Are you more of a conductor or a soloist?
André Rieu: Phew, in the sense I am neither a pure conductor, soloist, entertainer nor businessman. I am ultimately a combination of them all - and that's why I am successful, I think. I studied the violin, but not conducting in the classical manner or studies in business. But I can conduct, and above all, I can make music.
Nuremberg Newspaper: How important are violin solos in your concerts?
André Rieu: That depends in each case on the program, whether I feel like it, or if it fits into the program. Every year I make a different program.
Nuremberg Newspaper: But what exact part do you play in your concerts, the first violin parts?
André Rieu: I play whatever comes to mind.
Nuremberg Newspaper: In many photos you are seen with a violin ...
André Rieu: That is logical, that is my image. I am also known as a violinist.
Nuremberg Newspaper: And you also own a very valuable one too.
André Rieu: I own three violins including a Stradivarius from 1732. To own this violin is for me personally great pleasure and fun.
Nuremberg Newspaper: In your autobiography it states that you almost opened up a pizza restaurant.
André Rieu: We wanted to actually open up a pizzeria, but that still remains just an idea. Back then we had already made a menu card and the most expensive pizza was "Pizza Paganini". The plan was then for me to play the violin while this pizza was being served. And for that reason, I again began to practice - and then I thought: "No, I will just omit the Pizzeria."
Thank you to Benny and Ineke for sending this and John Translating it for us.