Andre Rieu: My violin sounds like Maria Callas

Don't be afraid to show your smiles or your tears during my concerts

Andre Rieu

I am able to make people happy with my hobby; playing violin gives me such a good feeling, and when those feelings are sensed by an audience, I'm even happier, says maestro Andre Rieu in an interview to Europost.

Maestro, welcome back to Bulgaria. You're going to perform again in June in Armeec Hall. How do you feel?

I feel wonderful, thank you. Do you want to know why? I am able to make people happy with my hobby; playing violin gives me such a good feeling, and when those feelings are sensed by an audience, I'm even happier. Isn't it gratifying for somebody, when you see sunny smiles every day, in front of you and behind you? It is so great that my orchestra members share that musical dream with me, and it is so nice to have such a great bunch of loyal fans all around the world. The Bulgarian fans are very kind and friendly, that's why I return to your magnificent country!

Could you please tell us more about the upcoming concerts in June?

It will be a great evening the audience can look forward to; delicious waltzes, well known arias from musicals and operas, famous melodies from movies and so much more. Sopranos who perform in world renowned opera houses will join me on stage, as well as the Platin Tenors who are with us since 2004! And maybe, there will be some nice surprises, which I won't tell you now!

You started playing the violin at age five. What made you want to play?

I was raised in a musical family as you might remember: my father was a conductor and all my brothers and sisters used to play one or more instruments, all chosen by my mother. She thought that the violin would suit me best and she was right; there is no other instrument I can think of, that is able to translate my inner feelings that much. This feeling even grew stronger when I witnessed them during my father's concerts. The simultaneous movements from the bows of the violin players, it was like magic! They enchanted me immediately!

Your father was the conductor of the Maastricht Symphony Orchestra. Were you destined to follow in his footsteps and have a career in music?

I think so, as a boy I thought that everybody in the world was a musician. Therefore I asked my classmates: “What kind of violin do you play?” I did not have any plans to conduct by that time, although I already had dreams about having an orchestra of my own in order to travel the world with it. That dream came true!

You have dedicated your entire life to classical music. What kind of emotions does classical music evoke?

That is the most beautiful thing with (classical) music; it is the art form that goes immediately to your heart and then, it evokes completely different emotions with all of us. While one is feeling very happy, another one can become very sad. During my concerts, all these emotions are allowed: don't be afraid to show your smiles or your tears, everything is possible!

Who has been your biggest musical inspiration?

I have to mention the one and only true King of the Waltz - Johann Strauss! It is not for nothing that my orchestra bears his name for so many years now. This man was able to write so many hauntingly beautiful and outstanding melodies. If musical charts existed in the 19th century, his waltzes, polkas and marches would be in the Top 10 every week. Besides that, he must have been an enormously talented, charming and flamboyant entertainer.

Is there any one moment from your career so far, that stands out as particularly special or memorable?

Every concert is special in its own right, I would not be able to mention one moment that was very special. There was the world premiere of the World Stadium Tour with the Schoenbrunn stage in Toronto, there are the summer concerts in my hometown of Maastricht - a tradition started in 2005 - and there was this very romantic concert in Cortona, Tuscany. But, then again, there are so many nice moments that I really can't choose one particular moment that stands above all the others.

If I'm right, you currently play a 1732 Stradivarius violin. Is this your favourite?

It is a gigantic joy and I consider it as a privilege to play on one of the last instruments the Italian master made during his long career - he passed away five years after completing this violin. Can you imagine that he was over his nineties? The sound of a Stradivarius violin is unique and can't be described very easily; you might compare it with the sound of Maria Callas' voice, very warm and touching. When I played on it for the first time, I already noticed this!

How many violins do you have? Which one is the most expensive?

I only have this one and it is quite expensive, that's true. But it has been worth every single euro! I also am the owner of several instruments of the orchestra members but I allow them to play on these instruments. With the exception of my own violin, there are four complete sets which is especially handy when we travel from one continent to the other.

Who is Andre Rieu behind the music?

A happy and spoiling grandfather, I suppose: my son Marc has three children, my son Pierre has two. I am very fond of all these children, they make me a proud (and hopefully loving, caring) 'opa'! Some people think that I'm surrounded by music all the time, but at home I prefer silence - except when my grandchildren have learnt a new song in school, then I am a happy listener and sit in the first row to hear what they have learnt!

You could live anywhere in the world. Where do you feel at home?

My hometown Maastricht, the oldest town in the Netherlands. After I have been touring around the world, we all come home here, and it is on the Vrijthof Square where we invite the people from all the continents to see how beautiful Maastricht is. And when I make a nice walk on Mount Saint Peter, behind my home, I really feel at ease, and I realise that I'm home. Home is where the heart is, and my heart lies in Maastricht forever. I was born there and I will stay there for the rest of my life!


Andre Rieu, born on 1 October 1949, is a Dutch violinist and conductor best known for creating the waltz-playing Johann Strauss Orchestra. He and his orchestra have turned classical and waltz music into a worldwide concert touring act, as successful as some of the biggest global pop and rock music acts. He resides in his native Maastricht, the Netherlands.

Rieu's father was conductor of the Maastricht Symphony Orchestra. Showing early promise, Andre began studying violin at the age of five. From a very early age, he developed a fascination with orchestra. He studied violin at the Conservatoire Royal in Liege and the Conservatorium Maastricht.

He speaks five languages: Dutch, English, German, French and Italian.

Andre Rieu will return to Bulgaria for two more concerts on 8 and 9 June in Sofia.

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