André Rieu brings the magic of the violin to Ireland this Christmas
Known as the King of the Waltz, violinist and conductor André Rieu brings his world famous Johann Strauss Orchestra to Belfast and Dublin next month. With a career spanning more than 40 years, Jenny Lee finds out what keeps the Dutch maestro going
Are you looking forward returning to Ireland and kicking off your UK and Irish tour in Belfast?
Yes of course, it is always a pleasure to return to these lovely countries; the atmosphere during the weeks before Christmas is nowhere better than in Ireland.
What can we expect on your visit this time? Will it be a festive concert?
Yes, it will be a new programme, an evening filled with delicious music: wonderful waltzes, famous arias from musicals and operas, well known melodies from movies and so much more.
You are a regular visitor to Ireland, have you any memories you can share?
When we are on tour, there isn’t much time to explore the cities we are travelling to unfortunately; I do remember, however, our performance with The Dubliners, especially my fellow violinist John Sheahan, who is very friendly and highly talented.
What is your favourite:
Waltz? Johann Strauss composed many magnificent waltzes, but my all time favourite is Gold and Silver by Franz Lehar.
March? That must be the Parade of the Charioteers, from the 1959 movie Ben-Hur. This outstanding piece of music was composed by Miklos Rozsa.
Christmas song? O Holy Night (Minuit Chretien) by Adolph Adam. It still gives me goosebumps every time I hear it.
How will you be spending Christmas Day this year?
Together with my small family (my wife, children and grandchildren). I’ve been on tour the whole year with my big family (my orchestra), and Christmas is a time I love to be together with my loved ones.
Where do you get all your energy? Is it simply a case of a waltz a day keeps the doctor away?
Yes, that is the correct medicine. No vitamins or supplements for me, I get my energy from healthy food and good company, but especially from all these happy faces in front of me, in the audience. When I see all these people smile and dance, I get an enormous boost of energy for the rest of the evening. Power naps one hour before a concert are quite helpful too.
Your concerts leave audiences deeply moved, do you still get emotional while performing?
Yes, I do. When my heartbeat gets faster, I get tears in my eyes or I get goosebumps while playing – those are indicators for good music. When I feel those things, I’m almost sure that my audience will love it too.
You and your violin seem inseparable. Do you use your Strad for all performances?
I have three violins, but mostly use this Stradivarius. I feel very honoured to be the proud owner of a genuine Strad. It is one of the last instruments the Italian master made, it dates from 1732 and it has a unique sound.
Your shows are such a spectacle, not what many expect classical show. Do you feel pressure to continuously improve them?
I don’t feel any pressure at all, I only want that my concerts are a treat for all the senses, not only the ears. That’s why I try to turn sport stadiums, where we sometimes perform, into ballrooms (complete with a nice stage and chandeliers).
You now regularly broadcast your productions to cinemas – does technology play an increasing role in concerts?
One should always innovate and move together with the newest technological inventions. Why shouldn’t I use this technology in order to present my concerts to a worldwide audience that way? It would be fun to one day be watching André Rieu in 3D.
Why are your orchestras’ costumes so important to you?
Everything you see is a personal design from me – all the gowns for the ladies and even the jewellery they wear. At the beginning of my Johann Strauss Orchestra, we all wore black (including the ladies), but I found that depressing and boring. That’s why I chose these coloured dresses for the ladies.
Who are your musical influences outside classical world?
I would like to perform with Bruce Springsteen. I’m a little bit jealous of this man’s energy. It's wonderful how he grabs the audience and jumps up and down during his concerts.
On stage your orchestra seem to have such camaraderie, how do you as a leader motivate and promote this?
I founded my orchestra myself 30 years ago and many of my musicians have been with me for over 20 years now. We are a big family. On tour we share our joys and sorrows, we stay at the same hotels and eat the same meals. Together we have a lot of fun on stage, and the joy of making music together is the biggest motivation you could ever imagine. There are a lot of friendships and marriages in my company. Right now we have 13 couples and a lot of babies.
Your brother plays in your orchestra. Are your children involved?
Pierre has been involved in the company since the age of 19. Instead of studying, like my other son Marc did (he has a university degree in art history and is a wonderful landscape painter), Pierre started in the technical crew department. Now he is the vice president of Andre Rieu Productions which organises the concerts, handles the cinema broadcasts and André Rieu Travel. I’m proud of them both.
You are 69 now and I'm sure you haven't contemplated retirement. Are there any goals you wish to achieve?
Why should I quit what I love doing the most in my life? As long as it is possible to entertain people worldwide with my music, I’ll keep on doing this. I’ve always wanted to perform on the North Pole, but it would be too complicated and also damaging to the nature to arrange this. Now, I’ve set my eyes on the Moon. Wouldn’t it be great to be the world’s very first artist to have a lunar concert? Richard Branson, whom I’ve spoken with a few times, thinks it can be possible within several years.
:: Belfast’s SSE Arena on December 6 and Dublin’s 3Arena on December 7. Tickets at Andrerieu.com. Andre Rieu’s 2019 New Year Concert from Sydney will be broadcast to local cinemas on January 5 and 6.