MAX Magazine Interview with André Rieu
Interview with André Rieu, by MAX Magazine, January 20, 2024. Translation Ineke, edited by Alice Leung. Violinist and orchestra leader André Rieu: “I'm living my dream.” Violinist and orchestra leader André Rieu is one of the Netherlands' largest musical exports. He travels all over the world with his orchestra and his spectacular shows rival the greatest international rock performances. His Johann Strauss Orchestra started in 1987 with 12 members and played its first concert on January 1, 1988. As the years progressed, the company grew and now plays with 80 to 150 musicians. André starts every year with the traditional New Year's concert in the Ziggo Dome in Amsterdam. In Maastricht, he has been giving large-scale, fantastic open-air concerts on the Vrijthof every summer since 2005, where hundreds of thousands of people attend from all over the world. What was your childhood like? “My mother was a hard woman and my father not only conducted his orchestra, but also the family. I myself needed a number of years of therapy to come to terms with my youth and to learn to deal with it constructively. There is nothing wrong with therapy, asking for help can bring you peace, I can recommend it to people. Therapy has enriched life enormously for both my wife Marjorie and me. Among other things: how things should NOT be done. I wanted to become a conductor, but not a conductor like my father. And certainly not a conductor over my family. The former worked out well and you have to ask my children about the latter”. You have been happy with your wife for years, with whom you have two sons. How did you meet her? She was in my sister's class and I saw her for the first time at a Sinterklaas party, the only curly haired woman in the room. She immediately stood out. We have a lot of respect for each other and discuss a lot. We express our opinions to each other and the great thing is that they almost always agree. There is never an argument. Life is ‘giving and taking’. It remains very special that you meet someone who suits you so well and I still consider myself lucky every day.” Have you ever considered another career? “When my wife and I first got together, there was a period when we both no longer felt like doing what we were doing. My wife was a teacher and I had studied the violin all my life. I put my violin in the closet and we became hippies for three weeks. I no longer had any obligations, we felt wonderfully free. In the third week we decided that we wanted to open a pizzeria together. The most expensive pizza on the menu would be a Paganini pizza (after Niccolo Paganini, an Italian violinist). I would then serve it at the table with a virtuoso violin piece by Paganini. I took my violin out of the case and started studying again. Unexpectedly, I enjoyed studying so much, that I wanted to continue making music again.” Is talent or perseverance the core of your success? “On the one hand, my talent is largely innate; I started playing the violin at the age of five, but on the other hand, it took me many years to get where I am now. And you will have to give up things for it. I used to want to play football in the street instead of practicing, but now I'm very happy that I persevered. The best things in life don't come naturally. If you really want to achieve something you will have to work hard for it. I knew from a very early age that I wanted to have an orchestra and travel the world with it. Ultimately, the fact that I succeeded has as much to do with perseverance as it does with talent.” Many orchestra members have been working with you for a long time, what is the secret of that good collaboration? “I am genuinely curious about those people who work with me. They are my second family and we have mutual respect. Crucial for this to succeed is a common goal; and that is making people happy with good music. But it is also because everyone gets space for themselves and their family. We could have chosen to do longer tours of four months and make a lot more money. But I have always realized that work is not more important than family. From the moment we broke through, we said that we should all be able to go home every two weeks.” But the tours themselves are very intensive. How do you get your rest? “You can do this by taking regular 10-minute breaks during the day. It's no problem for me to switch off during such a break. I can't do anything at all, so I use the time to think about another project. That's enough relaxation for me. I also sleep a lot. For example, I always sleep before a concert. It doesn't matter what happens, I'll just go to sleep. If you give your body rest, your brain naturally follows. Nowadays I sleep every afternoon and then again after dinner. From the age of 50 onwards I would say: take an afternoon nap. This way you stay energetic and you have two days every day: one in the morning and one in the afternoon.” You have many successes behind you. Have you ever made a wrong assessment? “I wanted to give people an unforgettable experience and I recreated the Schloss Schönbrunn in Vienna, the castle of Emperor Franz-Josef and his wife, as a backdrop for the concert tour 'A romantic Vienna night'. It was 120 m wide (130 yards), 30 m deep (33 yards) and 35 m high (38 yards). Complete with ballroom, two ice skating rinks and fountains. It was the largest decor that has ever traveled with a concert. It was beautiful and unforgettable, but there was a reason no one else did it; it cost an awful lot of money. Despite being one of the highest-earning artists that year, I lost millions. I have only been out of debt for three years now. I can laugh about it now and it WAS unforgettable, but you understand that I will not recommend this to anyone.” What would you like to tell your 20-year-old self? “When I look at my life, the risks have always paid off one way or another. The expensive decor earned me bankruptcy, but also a lot of advertising. The following year, all tickets were sold out immediately. My 20- year-old self must continue to follow his dream, as I have done. It sounds like a cliché, but it's true. I'm still living my dream now. What more could I want than this?”
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