At Home with Andre Rieu
With his suntan, his long hair and his flashing performances Andre Rieu (52) has little in common with
the stuffed shirts we usually associate with classical music. Yet his big love is the same as theirs.
There are hardly any people who still listen to classical music. It is my personal mission to bring all
this beautiful music back to the people”.
We looked him up at his home base in Maastricht.
Once Andre Rieu showed his violin expertise in small orchestras with which he traveled through the
Benelux (short for Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg). Initially success stayed out and therefore
Andre and his wife Marjorie were forced to live on what Marjorie was able to scrape together as a
hairdresser. Meanwhile Andre was getting more and more upset with the lack of atmosphere during
performances and the apathetic attitude of the audiences. In answer he established his own
orchestra, an orchestra which would bring the swing back into the lethargic, vegetative world of
classical music. When we tour through his immense studios in Maastricht, the Netherlands, we can
see that choice has brought grist to his mill.
The studios are truly impressive. Yes,
aren't they. When I said that I was going to build my own studio, everyone declared me stark raving
mad. These days there is not a soul who still wants to record integral, they said. Through the
technical evolution everything becomes more compact. The musicians are put in minuscule cubicles
where they are do their part. The sound technician then sees to it that the produced sound gets
arranged into something acceptable through the use of all sorts of buttons and the latest computer
innovations. To make a mistake does not matter they just filter it out. Dreadful!!! In
the long run my musicians started to play without spirit and they scarcely produced music. I want to
act against that with this studio. By having the entire orchestra play together the result sounds a lot
better. The music is more powerful. There are of course also disadvantages. You really need to have
compatible musicians if you want to sound impressive as a team. If someone misses half a note
somewhere or makes just a tiny mistake, you really will not be able to remove it and you have to start
completely over. Further I attach great importance to natural lighting. I spent many days in studios
around the world. After about 3 weeks you become completely confused. Are we on Mars? Is it day
or night? I was sick of it. And the older I get, the greater my compulsion for daylight. I want to go
outside and enjoy every moment. Maybe I feel instinctively that my last hour has come. (Laughs)
Beside it has been scientifically proven that light brings positive impulses about. This is why doctors
prescribe light therapy for depressed people. They have to lie on these light beds and that helps
Really you should see my studios as enormous light beds. I still get a boost from it every time. Wow
I am allowed to play here. You hear this positive attitude clearly on the latest CD.
Speaking of your recent CD. ‘Dreaming is said to contain references to your youth. Quite a
few years ago I was in a heavy discussion with my father, who was an orchestra conductor We once
again argued about classical music. I thought it had become too snobbish and deathly boring and
without any contact with the audience who was abandoning it more and more. I wanted to bring some
life into things and add some humor. Namely by starting up with my own orchestra. After a short
silence, and some arguments right and left, he understood which direction I wanted to take. He took a
piece of paper and wrote a number of compositions down which he thought I should play with my
orchestra. This CD contains the songs which my father at that time scribbled down on that piece of
Why did you wait so long before you recorded these pieces of music?
I found them too classical. Only now do I feel ready to tackle these compositions, which have in
general been labeled as heavy. I particularly want to prove that it is beautiful music. It is one of my
dreams, my attempts, to expose the larger audience to all the classical music which I think of as
valuable. At the moment few people listen to classical music not to say completely nobody. If you
would calculate the percentage, you would get zero point zero. I don't understand that at all. I think
that a lot of people like to listen to classical music, but they are scared away by the label classic. By
coffee and cake they happily hum along enthusiastically, until they hear that it was Beethoven. The
classical music is surrounded by an aura of elitism of museum. It comes over as strict and black and
that is not at all necessary. I feel it as my personal mission to bring all this beautiful music back to the
You especially make classical music more interesting with elements from the pop culture,
uproar, pomp and circumstance and a lot of show.
Indeed, I am not at all ashamed of that. I know my artistic qualities; I know how to bring it and I love
doing it. It is not only more enjoyable for the audience but also for me. I want to get rid of that stiff
pompous attitude. As a performer I feel comfortable in my own skin. As a student you are playing
and you are continually overtaken by self-doubt. Will I ever get there? Am I good enough. Would it
not be better, if I did something else? Not a soul is going to listen to me, that at least is how I
experienced it. But now I have arrived at a point where people impatiently anticipate my next CD or a
performance in their vicinity. That is a very nice feeling.
So you join the artists who know how to play the crowds, in the style of Andrea Bocelli and
our own Helmut Lotti.
Everyone contributes one's mite to bring the classical music closer to the people. I do have a different
background. I have been classically formed and try to bring my music in that way. Helmut comes
from a very different milieu. He started as an Elvis impersonator, which by the way he does terrific.
When you close your eyes you cannot tell if that is Helmut singing or the King himself. He sings and I
play the violin that is the greatest difference. Commercially there are more points of contact. We
have comparable impact on classical music.
The disadvantage of popularity is that you are forced to expose yourself to scandal.
That comes with it. Not that it is fun, but oh well. If you are caught driving 230 km an hour (145 miles)
on the freeway, I will have to put up with the fact that people will be able to read about it in the
papers. I indeed sinned several times by having a lead foot. That is my own responsibility. But when
with the regularity of the clock rumors go around the world about alleged adultery here and flirtations
there, then I get really fed up with it. First of all because they are not true and secondly because the
feelings of my wife could possibly be hurt. I would never risk my lasting relationship with Marjorie for
a meaningless one night stand. I do not know where they get it because there is not a fuck of truth in
it. Maybe in the future I should ask a percentage of all these rumors, that way at least I make some
on them too, on the other hand is that kind of gossip a confirmation of my musical popularity.
You are past 50, will you continue to pour as much devotion into your concerts?
Concerts are the ultimate. That after all is what we do it for. The acoustics in the studios here may be
terrific, but it is more fun to stand on the stage with the orchestra. To give the best of yourself for
three hours for a large audience which goes completely berserk. That is cool. I have never had an
evening which went wrong, from which I afterwards thought I wish I had never done that evening.
Never. That pushes you forward. You want to do better every time. I am not someone they have to
push up onto the stage and who hates his audience. On the contrary, I love it so much that I would
prefer to die in the saddle, while I am making music. Not on the stage, mind you, that is just a little too
melodramatic for me. I cannot do that to my audience. But still preferably while I am busy with my
You not only give concerts you also regularly turn up on TV programs and the inevitable gala-
evenings and award shows.
That is the other side of the coin. Events like the World Music Awards in Monaco will drive me up the
wall. All those people who think they are important, but who behave like a lapdog to just be able to
stand close to Prince Albert. That makes me sick. Such award winning events have nothing to do
with recognition, but with the most vulgar form of commerce. I know for myself how many CDs’ I have
sold and how full the concert halls are. Just like I know whether a CD is good or not, and if it turns out
that CD sells well it is because the people know how to appreciate the direction I chose. I do not
need gold, platinum or chocolate trophy's to tell me that. TV- appearances are also not the highest
form of musical enjoyment. But you attempt to make the best of it. We go down there and we try to
amuse ourselves. There is always something that makes it worthwhile.
Do you have time for you family with your overcrowded schedule?
I have a clear division between my professional business and my private life. When I make music I
get completely involved, and I am willing to put a lot of energy into it. But the time I have for my
family, nobody will be allowed to take away from me. The balance between family and career has to
stay more or less in equilibrium, Even though that is not always easy. Take for instance the vacations
we plan together, I am absolutely not a“vacation person. If you would tell me that I would have to lie
on my back at the Costa Brava for three weeks that would kill me. Three weeks without music,
without ideas and without action. I would not survive it. I have to keep going. I remember a vacation
at the Belgium coast, I think it was in Middelkerke. For the boys, who were still pretty small, it, of
course was great fun, building sand castles, racing around in go-carts and swimming. They enjoyed
themselves thoroughly. In the meantime I was climbing the walls of our rented apartment out of
frustration. Two days later I raced home to fetch my violin. But the knowledge that my children had
the time of their lives made me put my personal feelings in context. That is indeed also the main
reason why I attempt to keep my family outside the present interest. At the time that I had my break-
through my children were just in their puberty. The last name of Rieu really was not much fun to have