The violinist is spreading Christmas cheer with a live recording of last year’s concert (Picture: David Fisher/ REX)
Popular Dutch violinist Andre Rieu, 71, on his tours outselling Ed Sheeran and Beyoncé, and why his music is good for your health.
A lot of your audiences don’t listen to classical music or opera regularly. How does it feel to have made it more accessible to the masses?
I’m very proud of that. My father was a conductor of classical music, I come from classical music and what I always hated was that feeling there is in the classical world, that behaviour that you don’t belong to us, this is our world of classical music, please go home.
Therefore I love to play not in concert halls but in a square or big arenas.
You’ve been the world’s most successful male touring artist and your tours have outsold Ed Sheeran and Beyoncé. That must feel good…
Yes, I’m proud of that. It shows that people are willing to listen to classical music.
Look at all the movies – they always use classical music and I’ve made it possible for people to come to a concert and enjoy it. I’m standing there playing my violin with my face to the audience.
André’s sold more tickets for his tours than Beyoncé (Picture: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP, File)
How much have you missed performing with your orchestra this year?
It’s a rough time for an entrepreneur because I’m not only a musician, I’m also the boss of 136 people – six on my payroll. I always say I’m like the father of my working family and in this case I am really because I have to take care of them.
They all have their families, homes, cars and mortgages, so luckily our government is helping paying some of their salaries.
You normally have annual concerts in your hometown of Maastricht in the summer and at Christmas…
For me, that’s the most terrible thing. Last year the lights and everything were set up in the square and when you go there now it’s empty.
So it’s really sad and also for all the people around Maastricht, they earn a lot of money because of these concerts and the atmosphere of the city is magnificent. People come from all over the world.
You’ve released a live recording of last year’s Christmas concert, though.
Christmas is my favourite time of the year and with this album I want to take people on a beautiful musical journey to winter wonderland – into a fairy-tale castle, the world of Santa Claus, the magic of Christmas, and the beauty and romance of the season.
It has been a dream of mine for a long time to give Christmas concerts in my hometown and in 2019 that dream came true. The CD and DVD captures the fantastic atmosphere of the concerts.
You’ve also recorded a retrospective of your Maastricht concerts over the past 15 years. How was it going through them and picking the best bits?
My wife Marjorie and I worked on making a compilation in our studio and it was very hard to choose because all the years were beautiful.
There were a lot of tears in our eyes watching the faces of the people in the audience and seeing how happy they were. Live concerts and live music are so incredibly important.
When you see what my music does to people and the emails and the letters people write to me… they say, ‘André, I was in your concert and I needed two weeks to come down to earth again.’ That is a big compliment.
Rieu is one of the greatest classical musicians of a generation (Picture: Eric Verhoeven/Soccrates/Getty Images)
It’s going to be even more emotional when you can finally perform again…
Oh, don’t let me think about that because the moment we are able to perform again I think I’m going to cry for the whole concert! It’s a very hard time.
Although I’ve been doing a lot of baking during lockdown, in the back of my head is this awful situation that we cannot play around the world.
It must be good to have a bit of a rest, though. Don’t you normally travel all the time?
The last concert we did before lockdown was on March 13 in Tampa, Florida, and we had to come back quickly. Then I was baking every afternoon and I never baked before, never!
One of my sons lives 50 metres from my home with his two children and every day at 4pm there was grandfather with a huge cake! We’ve seen each other much more than normal. I’ve had some lovely conversations on the street that we’d never normally have when time is running and everyone is working. It’s not all bad.
Do you still have aspirations as far as your career is concerned?
Oh yes. I’m going to live to be 140 so I’m going to tour another 70 years! It’s really true, believe me. Touring with my orchestra and making music is the most important thing in my life and seeing all those happy people. It’s important for our health too.
Everybody is very well rested and the moment we’re allowed, we’ll jump on stage and all have 100,000 per cent of energy. I can’t wait.
Rieu’s new CD/DVD Jolly Holiday is out now. Magical Maastricht will stream on André’s website from December 19 to January 3. Tickets at andrerieu.com.