My family is the center of my world
Nouveau Magazine - Interview by Marion Florusse: This coming summer, André Rieu will again change the Vrijthof into an open air concert hall in which thousands of people can enjoy his romantic concerts. The maestro, who since 2007 has been touring the world with an entourage of over one hundred personnel, still intensely rejoices himself about a new production. As a boy he fell in love with the waltz: light music for the experienced ears accustomed to the heavier works from the classical repertoire. But for him it was a revelation, which eventually would lead to world fame. Together with his wife, Marjorie, they live in "House the little Towers", a sixteenth century castle located on top of the Sint-Petersberg. Their sons Marc (1978) and Pierre (1981) live with their families on the estate and are employed with the Rieu firm. The Rieu firm is huge and for instance they bring their own catering business on tour with them, but also many decors to transform each location into a romantic place. To the public concerts of the passionate violinist and his Johann Strauss Orchestra are colorful musical tales.
As a child I already dreamed of making people happy with music
How do you explain the enormous success of your musical formula, the Johann Strauss Orchestra, the music, the entourage? "I think that is because we ourselves have so much fun with the music and that radiates itself out. It seems to be contagious".
After his studies at the conservatory in Brussels, the violinist performed with the Limburg Salon Orchestra, but it was always a dream to make classical music attractive to the general public. Eventually he succeeded.
What was crucial for you to take that step? "At a certain point my wife told me: "Just leave that orchestra because you are very unhappy. You have a dream, make it a reality, so I will go and earn a living for a while." And that she did. By that time in my life I also realized that making choices was very important in order to be successful and happy. You can continue your entire live and complain that you are not happy. But you have to do something about that!"
In 1987 André Rieu founded the Johann Strauss orchestra. Initially it consisted of twelve members, but currently sometimes more than fifty members occupy the stage. In the birth year of the orchestra André and his wife started their own business: André Rieu Productions.
You live in a castle, are world renowned, wealthy and beloved. You feel that way too? Laughingly: "No, such aspirations I do not have. I am lucky if I can make the sun shine during the Vrijthof concerts. Ha, ha! Other than that, that equation is totally wrong!"
What were your dreams like when you were a little boy? "I always dreamed to make people happy with my music and I am very happy to have been able to make that dream a reality. When I see how the people enjoy our music evening after evening and how such joy and happiness exudes from the Vrijthof, then I am not only happy but also a little proud."
I enjoy my grandchildren tremendously, they are darlings, all four of them
Which music do you like to play in your spare time? "When I am not rehearsing, studying or recording a CD, I do not play music. I much rather play then with my grand-children."
What does Limburg, and in principle Maastricht mean to you? "I was born here and with the exception of my studies in Brussels, have lived here my entire life. Maastricht is a wonderful city, it has everything you need, but it is small enough that I can go by car from my house to my studio on the other side of town in five minutes—but don’t let the police know! Maastricht is also a beautiful city with beautiful historic buildings that define the appearance and atmosphere. I love old towns. Moreover, there is coziness, especially in the summer with all the cafe terraces on the Vrijthof."
What do you miss most of Maastricht when you are on tour? "My family first and foremost and everything else that I just mentioned."
The castle where you now live, was previously not a favorite place for you, what changed your feelings about "House the little Towers"? Since we have lived here, we have done many changes and restorations. It has become much lighter. Earlier it was dark and gloomy."
How is it to live in such a place? "Truly magnificent. It lies on the outskirts of the city, with the front facing the river Maas (Meuse). In the rear, our garden starts at the St.Petersberg. As far as I am concerned, no human being can live nicer than that. Is there a Hollywood boulevard that can top that?"
What does it mean for you that so many people have an uplifting experience when they attend a concert by you and your orchestra so that they speak of another life through this experience?
"Is that a fact? I have actually never heard that before. But if they are happy with my music, I'm very happy of course."
What is the main driving force in your life? "The pleasures I and my orchestra have in the music."
How would you like people to remember you later on? "Oh, I would rather not think about that. I still enjoy life to the fullest and the music."
What is the most important lesson you have wanted to give your two sons? "I do not think that I consciously have wanted to give them lessons. They are both great boys and have a huge heart. They care for other people, and that makes me proud, just like my grandchildren. Very proud. I enjoy all four immensely, they are darlings."
Did your family have to make sacrifices for your career? "I do not think that Marjorie and the boys look at it that way. When the boys were still small I played with the Limburg Symphony Orchestra and was often home, maybe more frequent than most fathers, since my afternoons were free.
What does family mean to you? "Very much. My family is the center point of my world. That is where I get all my energy."
You have known your wife Marjorie since you were eleven….What is the secret of your marriage? "Secret??? I would not know why! We love each other and together we have a lot of fun in music and our work."
Your wife is your toughest critic, what does her judgment mean to you? "Her opinions weigh heavily on me and I always listen very seriously to her critique."
Is Marjorie the secret force behind your success, the wings on which you fly? "Marjorie and I fly together, I believe, that is nicer than alone. We both gain strength from that."
What makes your really happy, besides music? "Since I have become a grandfather, I believe I enjoy that aspect of my life the most. But when I am standing on the Vrijthof, and see all those people in front of me enjoying our music so much, then I am also very happy,"
You are now 65, but still not nearly ready for your pension. How do you experience getting older? "I am not too involved in that. Of course you notice that you are getting older, since for instance, you cannot run as fast as you used to and you have more ailments than when you were younger. But actually I am not really bothered that much by that. And I do everything I can to stay fit and healthy."
What does all that entail? "I have a personal trainer under whose supervision I do weightlifting three times a week. He also accompanies us on tour so I do not have to interrupt my training schedule. He also advises me on foods. I do not smoke, have an occasional glass of red wine, eat healthy and varied and above all, not too much. And fortunately an occasional little piece of Limburg vlaai (pastry)."
What, when you look back on your career, has been the most remarkable change in your life? "I was brought up with classical music. I really never heard about the "Beatles" nor the "Rolling Stones". Yes, their names maybe, but the sort of music they played, I really never knew. Something like that was not allowed in our house. And I was not allowed to go out, so where would I have heard that. Only though Marjory I learned to know lighter music. Not so much pop-music, but operettas, waltzes and dance music. I immediately found that to be beautiful and that has caused a major change in my career."
What is your best memory? "I have many beautiful memories in my career as well as in my private life. The first concert on the Vrijthof ten years ago was very special. To be allowed to perform there, in my own city, in front of thousands of –especially then—Maastricht citizens: an experience never to be forgotten. But still now too, again every year, when people now come to the Vrijthof from all over the world, my orchestra and I immensely enjoy playing there. It has a unique atmosphere, which we will never forget."
How do you look to the future?"Mostly, and although the politics do not always indicate a positive - optimistically I hope to be able to continue in doing what I love to do for a long time to come, namely making music and having people join in the fun.
André Rieu was born in 1949 in Maastricht in a musical family where father André Senior was a conductor, with two older sister, two brothers and a younger sister. He was given the names of André Léon Nicolas Marie, and studied violin at the conservatory in Brussels and where he received lessons from amongst others from Herman Krebbers. In 1994 he scored a world hit with "The Second Waltz" by Dmitri Sjostakovitsj. With his wife Marjorie, whom he married in 1975, they have two sons, Marc (1978) and Pierre (1981). He has one grandson and three granddaughters of which two are twins. Since 2002 the violinist has been a "Knight in the Order of the Dutch Lion." With his Johann Strauss orchestra he performs mega concerts all over the world.
Thanks to Ineke for the article and ©Translation by John