Superstar violinist André Rieu’s musical extravaganzas are legendary for his audiences waltzing in the aisles. But he has no desire to join in. ‘Oh please!’ he laughs. ‘The only time I wanted to divorce my wife was when she made us have dancing lessons when we were younger. Let them dance, and I will play.’
'When music touches your heart, it is good music, whatever it is.' Andre Rieu
That will keep his audiences happy. Musical snobs have called him ‘the King of Schmaltz’, but selling more than 32 million albums means he’s able to dismiss them with a smile. ‘I choose music with my heart. When music touches your heart, it is good music, whatever it is,’ he says. His new CD, Music of the Night, includes Lloyd Webber, for instance. ‘My father was a conductor of classical music, and for him when things were not classical then it was bad. That is not my view.’
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An evening of laughter
‘People know that when André comes with his orchestra, they are going to have a good time. It’s an evening of laughter, of tears, of dancing, of letting yourself go, of opening your heart. People have fun.
‘I like my concerts to be like sex. It starts very gentle, and very nice and very warm, and then there’s more emotion, and more emotion and then at the end…’ He laughs. ‘Pheeew!’
No wonder he gets hundreds of letters a week from female fans. ‘But I am married for 38 years, and everybody knows it.’ He and Marjorie, who keeps very much in the background, met when they were children. ‘Being in love? Everybody can do that; it’s an illness,’ he says. ‘But being together for 38 years is much more difficult. Love is something bigger, it’s giving and taking, taking care of each other, in good and bad times. It sounds all very clichéd, but it’s like that.’
Working out with a trainer
He turned 64 in October and shows no signs of slowing down, but works hard to keep fit. ‘Until 40 you don’t think about anything. Between 40 and 60 you think, “Ah, I have to do something”. After 60 you really have to do it, otherwise you are going to fall down.’ He works out with a trainer three times a week.
He scoffs at the idea of vitamin pills. ‘When you eat well, everything is in there. It’s very simple: twice a week you eat white fish, twice a week you eat white flesh, once a week red flesh, and once a week oily fish. And once a week you go to McDonald’s if you want.’
Last year he recorded a waltz written by Sir Anthony Hopkins, and next year he will bring out an album of Abba songs given the Rieu treatment. Any further collaborations? Lady Gaga? ‘I’ve never heard of Lady Gaga.’
He has come a long way from his classical beginnings. What would his father think of him now? ‘We had a lot of troubles together because he educated me to be a classical musician, to play Bach and Beethoven, not this dance stuff I do.’ He pauses. ‘But it was different when he saw I was serious in how I took my job. He never saw the big success. But when he sees it, from wherever he is, I hope he will be proud.’
Visit the official André Rieu website here
This article was first published in Saga Magazine.