André Rieu - My Father Was Mainly Concerned With Himself
An interview about love and the waltz, which changed his life
No, my father was mainly concerned with himself. He did not interfere with the children. He was hardly present in my youth. Of course his love for music did influence our family. We attended his concerts, there was always music in the house. He was immensely musical, so that is in the genes. He was of the pure "classical music", André says with posh voice. Heavy, serious music. Music that the elite has claimed. It did not make me happy. Marjorie brought the light music into my life. She brought light into my life anyway.
How was your life before you met Marjorie?
"To me it feels like my life really started when I met her. At that moment I was studying at the Conservatory in Brussels, but I did not feel any passion, I was not inspired. I did what I had to do. Till then there was no one (including my parents), who had ever believed in me. Only I did. My parents thought that I would not make it, because I was dreaming all day. But Marjorie believed in me and from that moment I started to develop. That was the start of everything".
It lasted a long time before you broke through. Did you have to work hard?
Certainly - I started from the bottom. After the Conservatory I founded the Maastricht Salon Ensemble and we played at festivities and parties. My father hated it, that I preferred the light music, but I loved it. We were playing close to the audience and every time the hall responded so well. Whether we played for a wedding or a group of lawyers, at the end of the evening everyone was enthusiastic. I saw that it worked, that it was the music that touched people. But I had to beg for seven more years before someone was willing to make an album with me. When I knocked at the door of a Record Company, they always asked what kind of music I was playing. I answered: "Operetta music and waltzes". I saw that they were thinking: Go and play for your grandmother in the south (of Limburg).
How did you keep confidence in yourself?
"It has always been my dream. I was convinced that our music could give something to people. So we continued and trudged on. I knew by the people's reactions, that it was not only in my mind. It was a matter of pushing through and having a little bit of luck. Finally I met someone from a record company who was willing to attend our concert in Harlingen, because he lived there. Afterwards he came to me and said: "I understand what you mean". He allowed me to make an album and said: "If we have sold 5000 CDs at Christmas, we are okay". That year we sold 20.000 and half a year later it was increased to 900.000. That is how it started".
Did your wife play a part in your success?
"In 1987 I founded my own orchestra, the Johann Strauss Orchestra. We started with 12 members, in the meantime we have 50 members. I remember that Marjorie and I bought the seats for the orchestra at the market and we upholstered them ourselves. We did everything ourselves, because at that time nobody believed in me. The beginning was a hectic time, with two little boys at home and my career starting to grow. From the beginning my wife and I did everything together and that is what we still do. I think that is our secret: my musical success is our joint venture. And also Marjorie is my main sounding board.
Do you intend to slow down a little now?
No, I don't think so. My son Pierre, who is the vice president of the Rieu Company, often says: "Please, quiet down you both ... " But we are like the owners of a supermarket, who have to open the door each day, put the advertisement outside.
These people become very old, because they feel a necessity. It's nice to work for your own company. At this moment Marjorie is busy to have my biography, which she wrote a long time ago, translated into Limburg dialect".
Some years ago you changed your way of living.
"Yes, that was a necessity. I believed for a long time that I could maintain the traveling, the performances, the irregular way of living, without caring for my body very well. That was stupid. My body stopped me at a certain moment. One night I woke up and everything was spinning around. It appeared to be an inflammation of the vestibular. That is caused by stress. I could not work for a few months and I had to cancel shows.
After that I hired a personal coach and a few times per week I go jogging and do power lifting with him and I changed my diet. He also travels with me when I am on tour. At present I'm the fittest and the oldest of my entire orchestra", he says laughing.
Besides the personal trainer, a doctor and two chefs join the orchestra on tour.
"Earlier everyone used to think: The King of the Waltz is going to visit us, so let's make him a Wiener schnitzel. At a certain time we had enough of Wiener Schnitzels. Often the quality was not even good. After half of the orchestra had been ill by food poisoning, we decided to take our own catering and chefs.
Thanks to Ineke for the Translation