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Nov 22, 2015

André Rieu, "Maybe I'll become Austrian"

André Rieu, "Maybe I'll become Austrian"

"Krone" interview by: Robert Fröwein, "the Crown Newspaper": Star violinist André Rieu published a brand new studio album these last few days titled "Arrivederci Roma" and in May 2016 he will again come back to Austria to perform some selected concerts. We met the Dutchman in his "second home", on the Piazza della Rotonda in Rome for an extensive interview and discovered that even as a world traveler he always feels homesick, he is a big pop fan and is quietly looking around for a permanent place to live in Austria ...

"Krone": André, recently you released your new album "Arrivederci Roma". What special relationship with Italy do you have?
André Rieu: My wife Marjorie and I have been coming here to the Pantheon in Rome continuously for 15 years. For romantic music this city fits that perfectly.

"Krone": You and your wife your 40th anniversary this year.
Rieu: Yes, it is so important to always go back home, to where she is for me. There I receive the strength to travel the world. Without a permanent home, I would be quite lonely.

"Krone": Has your wife has become accustomed to the fact that you are always traveling so much?
Rieu: That was not so easy at first, but after the children were gone, we bought two poodles. She always says, she could not be alone without the dogs. But of course would prefer for me to be home. (laughs)

"Krone": You have a special affinity for Italy, and even released the album "A Night in Venice" last year. Why this country?
Rieu: What kind of question is that. (laughs) The music does come from Italy but - of course also from Austria, but Italy is for me the mother of music. Even the pop from today here is original and so many world hits come from this country. Certain numbers are known from Rome to Lima - that I find fantastic.

"Krone": Italians are also very spirited ...
Rieu: I am that too indeed. (laughs) So I feel quite at home here.

"Krone": Does this temperament help you achieve a good show on stage on bad days?
Rieu: This may sound stupid, but I never have a bad day. But then, only when I'm sick. But even then you have to be on stage - the show must go on and the audience can not notice anything. That I do not feel well or am depressed, it does not matter. It's nice that I can travel around the world together with my orchestra.

"Krone": You also like to show temperament when people come too late to your concert. They are then received with a wink from you. Would you like to elaborate a little bit on that?
Rieu: (laughs) So I like to tease the people a little bit with that. The latecomers are then shown large on the screen and they are all red. Punctuality for me is simply incredibly important. You cannot travel with 110 people around the world, if that does not work. Okay, here in Italy, you can forget about that. (laughs) Here I am but only a guest.

"Krone": Why did you limit yourself to only 16 songs when the "Land of Music" has so many more to offer?
Rieu: My heart always decides. Usually I have 40 songs to choose from, before I record a CD and then it is reduced in a normal fashion. That of course is hard work, but also very rewarding. We then go with the orchestra to the studio, try them out, make trial recordings and when something does not work out the way I had imagined, it is deleted. The rest remains.

"Krone": You have two families. Your orchestra family, with whom you share the stage, and your own family. Is it sometimes difficult to disregard one over the other?
Rieu: No, we have a very nice, precise schedule. We tour only two weeks at a time, except when we go to Australia, because when we go there we already lose three days just getting there. But we usually are there for more than three weeks. Normally after two weeks, we are usually back home. My orchestra members all have children, they should be able to live normally. I myself do not want to live like a gypsy traveling around the world, but also want to have a real life.

"Krone":  In your studio in Maastricht you even built a childcare area for the children of your orchestra members.
Rieu: That's right, I think I am responsible to also care for the children.

"Krone": It is also interesting that you still have your home base in your birthplace of Maastricht. House and Studio are there. If Rome agrees with you so much, why don't you ever want to move here?
Rieu: Because I'm a shitty Dutchman and love my home. (laughs) I have an enormous respect for this city and speak here in their broad dialect, which is nice. I also feel comfortable here, but I am not a Roman. It is magnificent to be here, magnificent to travel the world and even more magnificent to be home again. It balances out.

"Krone": Do you miss your home often on tour?
Rieu: Yes, of course, saying goodbye to my wife, my children and grandchildren is always difficult, but as soon as I am on the bus or plane with the orchestra , everything is forgotten.

"Krone": Have you incorporated both your two sons in your job?
Rieu: No, that went all by itself. My older son is a painter and the younger one is our assistant and works with our entourage. That happened on its own, I never pushed them.

"Krone": You once mentioned that your audience differs from country to country. Do you really notice that?
Rieu: I notice that immediately. Everywhere they are enthusiastic, but with differences. In Mexico, they are really quite crazy, and when I walk out on stage, they cry. The Americans are more reserved and have an attitude like: "Now show us what you really can do." The Japanese are extremely polite, initially I thought that it would not work. But when the balloons came down with the Radetzky March, they freaked out completely. (laughs)

"Krone": Do you sometimes have an audience, with which you do not feel comfortable?
Rieu: I've always said, my music works everywhere and I was right, that is true.

"Krone": What's the reason for that?
Rieu: I think it is the manner in which we play. We play a lot of Strauss waltzes and they are internationally known. I speak a lot in between, announce the numbers and all that probably makes it work.

"Krone": In your musical line of work you have a mix of young and old. This does not occur very frequently.
Rieu: Absolutely, they come from all walks of life to us. From the cleaning lady to the Professor, from children to the pensioners. And I do not make a distinction between the people - we are all equal.

"Krone": You came very late into the pop music. How do you view pop music in comparison to classical? Do you take them both seriously?
Rieu: I definitely make no distinction between the two styles. The classics make the distinction. For me there is only good and bad music. Bruce Springsteen or Madonna made fantastic music, but on the same token Bach also has made some shitty music. Nobody is perfect. It is not automatically good just because it is classical, or automatically bad because it's pop. A stupid attitude.

"Krone": You love to incorporate pop songs in your repertoire, such as Michel Telos' smash hit " Ai Se Eu Te Pego".
Rieu: This song was a big hit in Brazil and we incorporated it into the program because everyone went crazy when we played it. (laughs) The pop song has to be good and successful, before I play it. It just has to makes sense. This song fitted perfectly into the encores, it was the right moment to play it.

"Krone": To what extent do your orchestra members actually have a say? Or does it run a dictatorial way?
Rieu: They have a lot of input, that piece of Teló did not work well, my orchestra brought that to my attention. They gave me a tip and it worked. When I say that I find something shitty although the others do not, then we do not do it, but normally that happens very seldom.

"Krone": Do you enjoy media names such as "Maestro of the masses" or "King of the Crossover"? That you are perceived as a converter of two different spheres?
Rieu: The fact is that I really do not care, I'm also the "Waltz King". I am a bit proud of that title, it is better than not having one. (laughs) You have to just glue to my head what you want - I'll just play on. (laughs)

"Krone": In May 2016 will again come back to Graz, Salzburg and Vienna. But Austria is also indeed a land of music - how does it differ from Italy?
Rieu: Here on the Piazza della Rotonda in Rome, I must say of course that Italy is the land of music. (laughs) So many legends of course come also from Vienna, that's fantastic. I very much like to come to Austria and the audience sucks all the notes out of my violin, that is really something special.

"Krone": Are there also other things that make you particularly happy when you come back to Austria?
Rieu: I am extremely happy here, the country is incredibly beautiful. My wife and I just talked about that yesterday, that we would like to buy a house in a beautiful area in Austria. But we still have so much to do that it makes more sense to simply take a holiday here. But a house on a beautiful place in Austria would be ideal for me. The country is wonderful and the people are all very nice and friendly. Maybe it will still happen. Then I'll become an Austrian. (laughs)

"Krone": Austria was indirectly a part of blackest hour in your career, as the Schönbrunn copy almost drove you directly to the brink of economic ruin a few years ago. Have you been humbled by that in any way?
Rieu: I then promised my wife never to do such a thing again. That was unbelievable and had cost me so much money. On the other hand though, the dilemma had attracted so much worldwide publicity afterwards that all concerts were subsequently sold. When I think about Schönbrunn, two kinds of emotions come up in me. (laughs)

"Krone": Are there after so many successes, awards and experiences still dreams or illusions that you would like to achieve?
Rieu: I would just like to go on like this. Staying healthy, to have energy, making music around the world and making people happy.

"Krone" Surely, you are not usually the person who plans far ahead?
Rieu: Not at all, a maximum of one year in advance. Otherwise, I would feel restricted in my freedom, by no means do I want to be cramped. The world is constantly changing, I do not want to plan ten years in advance. Through the Internet, everything goes much easier today than in the past, I see it as a great advantage.

"Krone": You always would have loved to open a pizzeria in Italy with your wife ...
Rieu: That once was the idea earlier, but now I'm very happy that I am a musician. (laughs) Maybe later, but that's now of course not an issue.

"Krone": Besides Rome do you actually have several other places where you regularly go and feel especially comfortable?
Rieu: Once a year we go to the Black Forest, and we also go often to the Sauerland region, and of course now we want to regularly visit Austria. That's it, other than that I work all the time.

"Krone": Are there still countries or territories where you still desperately want to play?
Rieu: Oh, there are still quite a lot. For example, we have never been to Russia or Mongolia. (laughs) There is still a lot going on, the world is big and luckily we still have a lot of time.

Thank you to Ineke for the article and John Translating it.

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