André and Jo
Chapeau Magazine May 2017. Double interview:
André Rieu and Jo Cortenraedt about enjoying life. By Ludo Diels, Chapeau Magazine.
A double portrait of the good life in Limburg: André Rieu and Jo Cortenraedt They have been friends for years. One performs as a super star on world stages from Melbourne to Buenos Aires, the other knows how to connect the pleasures of life in journalistic productions with Limburg. Divergent careers, different characters, but with many shared passions. Especially for the 20 year jubilee of the Chapeau Magazine, André Rieu and chief editor Jo Cortenraedt openly speak about their lust for life, their fear of death, enjoyment, care and health.
Visiting André Rieu at home in Maastricht. When the castle gate opens, you step into a different world. His world. The trees, flowers and borders are perfectly maintained, just like the buildings, the green house and a Mediterranean cloister. The water sculptures and the castle breath the mind of a dedicated owner. A man for whom, according to his own words and as he likes to say, details are most important in his life. André Rieu invites us into the reception room. Coffee and vlaai (Limburg pastry) are being served. The Maestro is only ready for the conversation after the guests have been cared for. He is a Pater Familias (head of the family) and apparently not only on stage. And a boss as well. The photographer immediately loses his artistic freedom when he makes some suggestions for a good photo moment. Rieu takes charge. He is used to that. "I carry the responsibility for a hundred coworkers. I love doing that, I enjoy it."
Jo Cortenraedt is at home at André's castle. Their relationship goes back to the beginning of the 90's, before Rieu's official breakthrough with the Second Waltz in 1994. Beginning with his professional interest in the emerging phenomenon, a strong bond of confidence arose. "Jo is the only journalist with whom I also talk about subjects other than only my work", says the famous stand-alone violinist sitting at the head of the table.
"I met André at a birthday party in the 1980's. We have always remained in touch. That's how I experienced his rise to stardom from very close by. He worked very hard to come to where he is now. It is nice that he still realizes where he came from. The success did not go to his head. His family, including Marjorie, are keeping him down to earth", Jo says laughing. "There certainly is a matter of respect." "Mutual respect, for sure", André adds . Jo's child, Chapeau Magazine, has been created with a careful eye for detail. The magazine radiates warmth and beauty. Loving your work, that is what matters. That precisely makes the difference which mediocrity exceeds.
Speaking about crossing over. Do you believe in Heaven? Or to put it differently: "Are you religious?"
André Rieu: "I believe in the here and now. The idea of a Heaven does not work for me. My orchestra and I make music for the here and now. I want to make life more beautiful. To make people happy, even make them crazy with my music. That's why I am on earth. I have a wonderful job. I am an atheist. But at the same time I am also sensitive to the atmosphere of my Catholic roots. I am exalted when I see the sunlight coming through the stained glass windows. Church music and the buildings also speak to my imagination. I was raised in Maastricht so the church has been a great influence in my formative years. The Holy Masses in the Saint Servaas basilica are engraved in my mind.
"As a young boy growing up in Eijsden, I was also an altar boy. In the meantime I have freed myself from the church dogmas, but the experiences of the church theater has definitely influenced me for sure. The church has and gives a meaning. But for me the church is a private matter. I associate it with something festive. In my opinion religion and politics have nothing to do with each other. If one religion were to be teaching us one important thing, then that should be to have respect for the other. That's why I am worried about the development in certain countries where religion determines daily life and politics, where no individual freedom prevails. We have to cherish our secular values".
Both of you are becoming older. Does the sense of finality not become more emphatic? Afraid of a death without a heaven?
Jo Cortenraedt: "I cannot deny that I am becoming older, sometimes I feel a certain hurry. I still like to do so many things, but you never know if there is enough time. Although I feel some cracking every now and then but in the meantime I have traded my running shoes in for walking shoes and a bicycle, nothing wrong with that. I feel fit and vital. Not only my work, but also my family with two growing children demands from me a certain discipline not to depart yet. I also enjoy working in the garden. That is a nice way to stay busy with earthly things. I can really enjoy nature. Maybe nature is a sort of a religion for me. But I am afraid I will not be able to escape death. I am realistic enough to know that I probably will not reach 120."
André Rieu: (laughing) "I doubt that too Jo." "If at all possible, I would very much like to reach 160. In Melbourne I met the renowned professor of gerontology Andrea Maier. She does groundbreaking research into the aging process. This past summer she was a guest at the "Sommer Guest" program. She suggests that you can delay aging by living healthy. I have taken that wisdom to heart, and do everything within my power to reach 160. Twice in my life I have been stressed out. After the last time, five years ago, I have made dramatic changes. From that time on, sports have become a definite part in my life. "A way of life" as they say. I started a different routine. I do cardio and weight training. Learned more and better to listen to my body. Sufficient rest goes with that too. And not to forget healthy food. Before not too long we'll have a new kitchen. I am looking forward to that."
André: "I was raised in Maastricht, so the church definitely has been a huge influence on my formative years.
The Holy Masses in the Saint Servaas basilica have been recorded in my memory"
Nevertheless, death has reported itself a few times unannounced in your immediate circles. That would, for someone like you who loves life, be hard to digest?
André Rieu: (Looking seriously) "Recently my sister passed away. Of course that hits you. Towards the end of last year, we were suddenly confronted with the sudden death of our trombone player Ruud Merx. That happened right in the middle of our England tour. We were completely in shock. And still now. Not only was Ruud a talented musician, but a fine human being and a good friend. We immediately stopped the tour. We could not do anything else. I am a little more sober about my own death. I will not be there. So in that sense I do not think about my funeral. Because by then I have relinquished my control. Of course I hope my music will continue when I am no longer here. But I do not think about that too much. I am alive now. Mimicking Einstein I say: "Everything is here and now. Live every day. That is what it is all about."
Jo Cortenraedt: "I too believe in life. Since I have had an active lifestyle from an early childhood on, I have kept the thought of death at a distance. Nevertheless, fate also did enter our family. My youngest sister who passed away at the young age of two, due to the indifference of a substitute weekend physician who finally decided to come by hours after we had called. His wife needed to go to the high mass first. After a tonsillectomy something came lose in her throat. She made it to the hospital, but died just before the operation was to take place. I still feel that loss under my skin. After that my mother was never the same. And my father passed away younger than I am now. Unintentionally he left a desperate family behind. I was still in secondary school. My mother was completely broken and was admitted to the psychiatric department, which caused me from the time I was sixteen, to run the family along with my sister. Looking back I do not even know whether that was difficult or not. I just did it, I had no choice. As far as I know, it gave me a persistent character. I am, I think, persistent. Maybe, because of this I have become a little bit of an obstinate little character. After my studies I moved to an agglomeration of cities in Netherlands. Limburg had become to small for me. I wanted to see the world. I started as an apprentice-journalist in Amsterdam and afterwards moved to the ANP(General Dutch News agency) in the Hague. After roaming around for years, I rediscover Limburg again. I was then working for "de Limburger" (Newspaper), afterwards "de Telegraaf" (Newspaper) and the NOS. Since 1997 I work for "Chapeau" (Magazine) and "L1" (Limburg Television) in addition to all sorts of other projects. I feel good here. A place to enjoy "the good life."
Jo: "I like to work from my feelings, my intuition.
Throughout the years I have amassed a small group of people around me whom I trust.
André Rieu: (laughing) "I have not been in a pub in years. In the past, yes. After a concert we all went to the pub. That was fantastic and was casual. But now a days it is not so easy. Now there are always people who would like and autograph or have a picture taken. This year Jo and I went to the TEFAF (Yearly arts exhibition) together. That was very pleasant. Privately I have withdrawn myself earlier, so I am definitely not the center of attraction. I feel comfortable with my family. In addition we have several old friends who we knew before we moved into a castle. It is very important to have such a fine group of people around you. I am all for harmony. Confidence, friendship and family are essential to me."
Jo Cortenraedt: "My wife Som always says that I am always standing in the background of a party. I enjoy seeing how others are having fun. That gives me a good feeling. Privately is that totally different. I notice that people often have a different image of me . Every now and then it comes back to me that according to them, I throw parties all day long, eat caviar and drink the best champagnes. "What a life" they then say jokingly. I am certainly not sorry, but my team and I have to work extra hard to run the media company which Chapeau in the meantime has become by now. People see me on TV sipping on a glass and visiting exceptional restaurants or attending a festive affair at home or abroad." (Laughing) "But they never see me in the middle of the night working hard trying to meet a deadline. Imagination is just what I'll call it, which I understand very well."
PLAYING THE BOSS
Are you the boss? You come across as being demanding.
André Rieu: "Demanding and caring, that is how I would like to characterize my relation with my colleagues. My colleagues are also my friends. We are always together, day and night. I know everyone. I like that. I believe that I can honestly say that privately as well as in my profession I am "pater familias" (head of the family). I am the boss, and with my wife we determine everything. Together we play the "first" violin. And with pleasure I do take on the associated responsibilities. I am also very caring. To care for something gives you satisfaction. I also like to care for my dogs, my koi fish and my aviary. I love animals. As well privately as in my profession I like to please people. That not only applies to my public, but also to the people in my inner circle. They keep me on my toes. I leave the people be. Most of my orchestra members and colleagues have been with me for over twenty years. That says something, I think."
Jo Cortenraedt: "In my line of business the confidence sphere is totally different. I work with a permanent team and with free lancers. Everyone has his or her own role and responsibility. I make sure of that. I am the boss. That does not mean that I am not up for discussions. I like to be convinced that I am wrong. I like to work from my feelings, my intuition. That, I think, I share with André. Throughout the years I have amassed a small group of people around me, people whom I trust, with whom I share love and suffering or with whom I discuss and philosophize about new subjects and life. They also know where to find me when matters in their private lives arise. And of course there is my family who keeps me well-grounded with both feet. Especially when my work demands too much of my time, they'll let me know. I like to set my goals high. That also means that I expect a lot from my colleagues. I am never in a bad mood. Why would I bother my fellow man with a bad mood? I consider a good mood to be a social duty."
CAN YOU HANDLE CRITIQUE?
André Rieu: "That depends on the person and the manner in which it is delivered. I noticed that bad criticism bothers one more than good criticism. That is because I give the people every time whatever I have in me in order to provide them with something unforgettable. You cannot perform a single concert on auto-pilot. There are a thousand and one things going through my head when I am on stage. It is a concentration battle. Only details matter. Every element is equally important with every concert. I am a perfectionist. I want to see and hear everything. I want to continue to grow with my orchestra. Not becoming larger, but in quality. You hope that your public and the critical press see that too. When you give everything you can give, critique can sometimes hurt. But in the meantime I can handle it. All over the world I see happy people in my concerts. A bigger equal does not exist. In general I find humor and self-esteem very important. That places matters in perspective. We laugh a lot, which is important. Especially in these times."
Jo Cortenraedt: "When it has the basis for constructive criticism, I can handle that. Where I had difficulties in the past, was the shameless copying by some colleagues. In the meantime I am convinced that the copier is only interested in what benefits him. I view it, maybe a little exaggerated, as a compliment. Throughout the years I have had to endure a lot of criticism. And often it was directed at the person himself. Never the less, I have never let it bother me much. Stoically continuing is my motto. Dogs bark and the caravan goes on. Positive energy is more important than quelling a long time about the negative. Those were also my intensions with Chapeau as well as Limbourgois; I want to emphasize the good in our province. That gives us energy. That however, is something totally different than blindly accepting something without criticism."
You travel a lot. How do you do that privately, outside the business travels?
André Rieu: "With the orchestra we always stay in good hotels. The care has to be good, because we are on the road for months out of the year. We even bring along a doctor and three cooks. "The show must go on." We cannot afford illnesses caused by bad food. We learned through the school of hard knocks. When on tour I maintain a good sleep schedule. I always bring my own sleeping couch along. I have accumulated four of them already. The same is true for all the instruments and clothing of the orchestra. We have four of everything so we can travel and be flexible. Privately I travel incognito and discreet. Marjorie and I never go on vacation any longer than three days. We like to be at home and I am already gone so often. Privately for instance we'll book a family hotel in the Sauerland. Every year we go to Rome for a few days. There I can still walk around undisturbed. I am not a real museum person."
Jo Cortenraedt: "In my youth we never went on vacation. We did not have the money for that. We also did not have a car. I did not miss it, since we did not know better. Due to my profession I have traveled a lot to all the continents. During a certain period I seemed to have gasoline in my blood. I enjoyed being on the road, searching for stories, challenges, adventure. By traveling you broaden your horizon. In the past years I have travelled less for my profession, since I am now responsible for an entire group of permanent and free-lance employees. There is so much to do. And I still have growing children. They want to be involved with me instead of via skype. After having seen all the continents, I prefer to travel through Europe. France, Spain, Italy. Not to the most busiest place, but a little away from the main routes. I always look for little out of the way restaurants in nice places or in little side streets. Just like in Venice. It is super romantic there in the winter, not so may tourists."
HOW IS YOUR MUSICAL INTEREST?
André Rieu: "My father, who was a director, did not like pop music. I might have been exposed to it once, but it basically and totally passed me by. I am however open to pop music. In my life it was the classics which were important. I rehearsed and practiced them for a long time. Now a days I do not play my violin the entire day. Very naturally my role as violinist is shifting towards the direction of conductor and arranger. Although I'm very proud of my stradivarius, I'm definitely not a fetishist. A violin is and remains for me an instrument. An instrument with which you can do very many wonderful things, really, but it still remains to be an instrument."
Jo Cortenraedt: "In my younger days I was not so into the classics. The Rolling Stones formed my musical horizon. But that has surely changed. Your life changes. Music is definitely important to me. I do not like music which impels itself, like in stores for instance. I like to really listen to it. In the car for instance. Now I listen more to classical music. Recently I bought some CD's with medieval Catalan music. Very pure. My taste, I think, is relatively broad."
André: "I like to look well groomed and elegant. You will never see me looking sloppy.
Naturally I also find it important to look good on stage.
What are your preferences in the way of food and drink?
André Rieu: "In a three star restaurant I can really enjoy gastronomic delights, but at home something just plain like endive with bacon. As long as it prepared with love and the proper products. . I have become more and more aware of the importance of good, honest products in a meal. Personally I would much rather eat a good meal at home than in a restaurant. To sit there at a table for hours on end, that is too long for me. I can also enjoy a good glass of red wine, for instance a good Saint-Emilio."
Jo Cortenraedt: "Two to three times a week I am in a restaurant, mostly for business. Privately we also visit restaurants, but cooking at home is nice and relaxing. In a nice establishment I can really enjoy the appetizers: oysters, langoustines, coquilles, lobster. In the matter of wines, the European countries have my preference. Like wines from the Rhone valley for instance like Condrieu, Chateauneuf du Pape. With a little bit of pepper. Or the red Mondivin from Hungary, made by Erik Sauter himself. A nice white Graves from the Bordeaux area, or a white Santenay from Bourgogne, also pleasant. Or an Italian Vermentino. At home we cook a lot with our own vegetables and spices."
HOW IMPORTANT IS CLOTHING?
André Rieu: "I like to look well groomed and elegant. You will never see me looking sloppy. Naturally I also find it important to look good on stage. The ladies wear beautiful dresses." (Laughing): "They do that because I have to look at them. No, I like looking at nice things. I am very visually oriented."
Jo Cortenraedt: "I did not wear costumes during my "Hippy" years. It was customary in journalism to dress sloppy. You still see that in journalism. But now I have a large collection of suits and combinations, both classical and modern. Also depends on my television work. But I also like to dress casually depending on the situation. In the mornings I think about what is on the agenda and then dress accordingly. I realize now more than in the past that your clothing is important for your appearance. The fact that my wife has an aesthetic profession with her beauty salon and is always dressed perfectly for the day, has inspired me to pay more attention to that. I cannot look as nice as she, but I do my best.
Where will you be in twenty years?
Jo Cortenraedt: "I think that I will always continue to write, as long as possible. That gives me a lot of satisfaction. But I do not think that in twenty years I still want to be in charge of the entire media business. The younger generation can take that over, like my oldest son Xavier."
André Rieu: "In my profession and in my life I live in the now. We are currently working on a new CD. That is a labor intensive process. It takes a long time. To record such a CD is like a creation narrative in a nutshell. In twenty years I still expect to be making music. I never think about stopping. Why should I? I feel fit and have the feeling we just got started. I do a lot for music. Music forms my core. In order for me to be on stage I have to be resistant to jet lag. I have to be able to sleep in a strange bed and be able to eat other types of food. At the same time, I'm supposed to control my nerves, which I always have before a performance, and give everything I have in me. You could call that hardships, but I do not see it that way. It's my destiny. And I still have a long way to go. So I keep on going, with all my soul and salvation!"
Thank You to John and Ineke for this long Translation!