Libelle interview published on September 17, 2023.
Weekly women’s Magazine “Libelle”, Sept. 17, 2023. By Caspar Pisters. Translated by Ineke, edited by Diana D. Le. Interview with André Rieu: “Good music is music that touches your heart”. Man of 40,000,000. André Rieu sold more than 40 million albums worldwide. 500 times he received a platinum album for his sales successes, and 270 times he received a gold copy. He was also awarded dozens of times. For example, he received the medal of honor from the city of Maastricht and became a Knight in the Order of the Netherlands Lion in 2002. André has been married to Marjorie for 49 years. They have two sons and five grandchildren. The family in which André Rieu (73) grew up was not loving, but it was musical. He knew what he wanted from an early age: his own orchestra. A nice bonus is that its more than a hundred employees feel like family. “I don't go to all weddings.” His assistant passes the phone to André Rieu, the Netherlands' most famous violinist and orchestra leader. We cannot get a video connection to work, so we do the conversation without video. André asks why we didn't just come to Prague, where he has just arrived with his Strauss Orchestra. The evenings before, he performed in Leipzig and Erfurt. A real caravan of musicians, decor, and technology is present for the large- scale music shows, as the world has come to expect from the born and bred Maastricht resident. He brings the worlds of Mozart, Strauss, and other composers to life in a spectacular way. He delights his audiences everywhere, from Brazil to Korea, the US, and Australia. The focus is and remains his home city of Maastricht. Since 2005, the city center has been dedicated to André Rieu's Vrijthof concerts for three weeks every summer. The Christmas concerts have become an equally traditional tradition, for which he transforms the Maastricht MECC conference center into a fairy-tale winter palace, complete with Christmas market and skating rinks. “I love Christmas,” he says. “The atmosphere, the warmth, the coziness. I really live for it.” Do you charter a flight for these types of trips? “Depending on where we perform. It's quite an organization. We are on the road for three or four days, then we fly back to Maastricht. A charter is more expensive, but it doesn't make much difference. It is easier and more pleasant. We are one big family; some orchestra members have been with me for more than thirty-five years.” I understand that eleven couples have now emerged from your entourage? Laughs: “Complete with children and everything. No, I don't go to all weddings. I also skip birthday parties. Otherwise, I will have no life left.” Prague, with its curly architecture, feels like a city that suits André Rieu. “You say that well, we have been here at least ten times. I love playing here.” To his assistant: “How many people will be in the hall tomorrow? Twelve thousand? Fourteen thousand? The average capacity of our halls is ten thousand people; you have to think of those kinds of numbers”. It sounds like you're no longer impressed by that. “Honestly, no. Do you know what it is? I travel around with a hundred and ten people, including an orchestra of seventy persons. I have to pay for all of that. Nobody pays me!” Laughing: “I have to bring this production to big halls, otherwise I won't be able to get by with this expensive hobby.” In conversation with André Rieu, figures and statistics are inevitably discussed. For example, when we talk about his breakthrough in 1994 with his version of the “Second Waltz” by Shostakovich, a Russian composer from the last century. André: “Who would have thought that? I was in the top ten for fifty-two weeks, including twelve weeks at number one. With a million CDs, I was the best-selling artist in the Netherlands that year.” When it comes to performances, he can compete with the greatest world artists. In 2009, he left behind stadium acts such as Beyoncé and Metallica. For one of his tours, he had the facade of Schloss Schönbrunn, the Viennese palace of Empress Sisi, recreated one-on-one: 125 meters wide, 34 meters high. He was just able to avoid going bankrupt, partly by pledging his valuable Stradivarius as collateral, but his name was established in one fell swoop. To the outsider it seems self-evident: André Rieu travels the world with enormous productions. When did you start fantasizing about this scale? “It is by no means self-evident. Coincidentally, last night in the hotel bar, after the performance, we were talking about how it all started. We have been doing these big shows for about fifteen years. The “shop” is now up and running, but we have been working towards that for a long time. Because of the large number of performances, we work with different tour sets that travel around the world: stage, decor, technology, instruments, clothing, everything times three.” Were there moments when you were unsure whether you would make it? “In fact, those moments are there all the time. I am not constantly busy with that, I also enjoy it immensely, but corona made it clear how much everything hangs by a thread. I made it through thanks to government corona support - I did shed a tear when that was announced. I continued to pay twenty percent of the salaries myself, I did not have to fire anyone.” André does not come from a stranger's musical talent. As a conductor of the Limburg Symphony Orchestra, his father was a man of prestige, who took his son to violin lessons at the age of five. “All my brothers and sisters played an instrument, so I did that too. I went to the conservatory, then I got a job in the Limburg Symphony Orchestra. I didn't plan my career, I kept rolling from one thing to another. What helped in the beginning was that my teacher was a beautiful eighteen-year-old blonde from my father's orchestra. I did my extra best for her, I liked that she came by for me every time.” When did the real passion for your profession arise? “I've always had that. I can't imagine what it's like to do something halfway. When I was asked to join a salon orchestra, I said: 'Nice, but first we'll just rehearse for a year.' I was about thirty years old and not yet a leader, I had to prove myself first. In the end, we did it my way. When we started performing after that year, we immediately had great success.” What do you remember from that period? “I found it difficult and remember that there were several moments when I wanted to quit completely. It is thanks to my father-in-law that I persevered. He experienced two world wars and, as a Jew, fled Berlin just before the Second World War. ‘You put so much energy into it, you keep going,’ he said to me.” What was your relationship like with your own parents? “I didn't get that much love at home. I don't think so, I'm actually sure of that. My father was very strict, friends were never allowed to come and play. Early on, I turned out to be the black sheep of the family because I see the bright side of life. Let me put it this way. My father didn't like my choice of music e thought it was too popular. I have a broad taste, for me the only good music, is music that touches your heart. The genre doesn't matter. ‘André is going to become someone special….’ I didn't get that kind of support from him.” Were you treated differently than your siblings? “I do have that impression, although I don't know how they felt. But I didn't have such a nice childhood. Marjorie also had a strict upbringing. We went to therapy together for four years to try to make something of it. That worked.” He smiles. “Yes, I can laugh about it now, but it was a difficult time.” You were thirteen when you met Marjorie? “It was at my sister's Sinterklaas party at our house. A house full of girls, but I only remembered one curly head. That was her. I have two older sisters, two younger brothers and a younger sister. Marjorie later said that she remembered many children, and only one boy. That was me." When did things go wrong? “We have always stayed in the picture together. She also had a crush on me, so she always secretly cycled past our house. When she had already graduated and was working as a teacher, she organized music and cabaret evenings for school. She once asked my sister to play the harp there, hoping that she would see me too. And when I rode my moped to the conservatory in Liège (Belgium), I passed her house. It was that platonic. It wasn't until I was twenty-five that it was finally on.” Still amazing, twelve years of being around each other! Laughing: “We were very good. It wasn't like nowadays, that everyone immediately… When I was studying in Brussels, we started writing letters to each other. She asked: ‘Shall I come over?’ Actually, we were just sitting there having a nice chat, but that felt so natural. I knew: this is the one. From then on things went quickly. Nine months later we were married. Marjorie and I are a team, we do everything together.” In therapy together, what do you learn about each other? "A lot. Most of all, we gained respect for each other, and I also learned a lot about myself. I recommend it to everyone." If you don't receive appreciation from your parents as a child, it is difficult to catch up. “You said that right. I really fought for my self-esteem. But I think it worked. Having my own orchestra was something I dreamed of from an early age. But how do you do that? I started with twelve people and it worked. Now, I'm living my dream.” Don't you think your father was actually very proud of you? He hesitates. "I do not know. He once came to a performance by the Strauss orchestra, but left during the intermission. Afterwards he wrote me a letter: 'There is only one person who can do this and that is you.' That is the only pride I have experienced from him.” For someone who was so careful with his words, this was quite something. “That's how I see it, yes, but it could have been a bit more.” Have you done things differently with your sons? "Certainly. The idea of parenting used to be: ‘I have to do everything I can, to make them succeed.’ Now you let your child develop himself. My sons both work in the company, we are a close-knit family.” David Hasselhoff suddenly drove into the 'nicest' square in the Netherlands in his Knight Rider mobile during your performances in Maastricht... Delighted: “Yes, that was fun, wasn't it?” Not everyone can achieve that. “I just called him. He liked the idea and he came.” You live in Maastricht in a real castle on the Maas. That's not just any house. "True. My piano teacher lived there, it was dark and damp. The teacher was a very annoying person. That is why I still don't like playing the piano. Now it is a nice place.” Laughing: “They call me The King of the Waltz, then I must have a castle, right?” This year there were almost a hundred performances in your agenda. Is there time to relax in your castle? “Oh yes. In addition to traveling, I am busy two hundred and ten days a year. Other than that, I'm home. Then, I spend time with Marjorie.” What does “doing nothing” look like in the Rieu house? “Oh well, we look at the flowers in the garden, the birds in the aviary, the fish in the pond, and then we realize that we have a good life.” Christmas with André Rieu André Rieu and his Johann Strauss Orchestra will once again give 5 Christmas concerts in his hometown of Maastricht this year. Singer Emma Kok will also perform during these concerts. For concert dates and ticket sales, visit
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