This month 'maestro of the masses' Dutch violinist and conductor André Rieu is celebrating turning 70 with a special worldwide cinema event, taking audiences on a journey through his extraordinary career.
In André Rieu: 70 Years Young the world-famous musician has selected his favourite concert highlights to create the perfect concert experience. Here he talks to The Senior about his life, and why he wants to collaborate with rock legend Bruce Springsteen.
You have played all around the world. Where is your favourite place to perform?
It is true, I have seen a lot of places around the world (the first track on one of my latest CDs is Around the World); there is, however, one city where I've laid down my heart: my hometown Maastricht.
During our summer concerts, fans from all the continents travel to the Vrijthof Square and together, we have an atmosphere that I can only describe as unique. We counted nearly 100 nationalities last summer! I hope to continue this wonderful tradition for many years to come. Australia, of course, has become a sort of second home on the other side of the world. We love to come here.
Is there anywhere you haven't performed where you would like to?
I try to discover new countries. We're making plans to travel to Russia, Malta, Greece and China and I would love to visit India.
Is there anyone you have collaborated with or would like to?
Oh yes, Bruce Springsteen!!! Although we are about the same age, his energy is sky-high.
I saw a documentary about Springsteen and thought: 'If only I could do this, entertain the audience in such a charismatic and energy-filled way'. That would be a dream come true to perform with him!
You perform concerts at special times of the year, such as Christmas. Do you have a favourite celebration you like to mark?
Last summer we organised the 100th concert on the Vrijthof Square and welcomed our millionth visitor. It made me so happy, I decided to pay tribute to all my loyal fans with a CD called Happy Days.
In October I turned 70 and celebrated with my big family (my orchestra and all the other fantastic employees) and my small family (my wife, our sons with their wives and our five gorgeous grandchildren). As I'm planning to reach 140, I guess there will be many more parties and celebrations to come.
How did you start playing violin?
My father was a symphony orchestra conductor, but it was my mother who chose an instrument for all six children; she thought violin would suit me best, and she was right. There is no other instrument that is able to capture and translate my inner feelings so well.
As a young boy, I also played the piano, oboe and recorder. But the violin won the 'competition' and then I received the best teachers in the world - amongst them, the very talented and friendly Herman Krebbers who passed away last year. Shall I tell you a little secret? I also play the singing saw - but not professionally, only occasionally.
Which of your pieces is the 'crowd favourite'?
That must be the Blue Danube waltz by the one and only true king of the waltz, my big hero Johann Strauss. As soon as the audience hears the first notes, they grab each other, jump out of their seats and start dancing! I even heard people are waltzing in the cinema aisles, which fills my heart with warmth and joy.
Personally I don't have a particular favourite - as long as the magical and enchanting rhythm of the waltz can be heard, I'm in my element. Gold and Silver by Franz Lehar is a beautiful piece.
How do you relax on tour?
Touring is great, to see so many different places and to get acquainted with different cultures. I'm in the fortunate position I can sleep when and wherever I want, so when I'm tired I take my power nap. I also relax with a Sudoku puzzle or a good book. As we visit Rome every year I love to read about the Roman emperors, and other historic novels. My son Marc bought me the Kingsbridge trilogy by Ken Follett, it's great.
Who do you like to listen to at home?
It sounds a little bit strange, but I prefer silence while at home or on the road. I'm surrounded by music throughout a big part of the day, so I really enjoy a moment of peace. One exception: when the grandchildren have learned a new song or piece on one of their instruments, I'm a happy and proud listener!
What is your proudest achievement?
The World Stadium Tour with the replica of Schnbrunn Castle. When we performed in Vienna in front of the real castle everything was perfect and so romantic. So I asked my son Pierre to build a full-size replica to tour with.
It left me bankrupt for a year, but was worth doing it. It was the biggest stage ever at that time any artist had toured with, complete with debutants, horses, carriages, fountains. A real fairytale.
And finally, what is your advice for musicians - of any age - learning an instrument?
Fantastic, how brave of you to play an instrument: musical education is always good, it is good for your sense of harmony, your sense of beautiful things in life. Never give up hope, try to believe in yourself and your dream. Like Walt Disney used to say: "If you can dream it, you can do it!" Good luck.
- Andre Reiu: 70 Years Young screens at cinemas nationally, Feb 8-9. For tickets and locations visit andreincinemas.com
- Andre's latest DVD Christmas Down Under - Live From Sydney ($29.95) and Happy Days CD ($21.99) are also available now.
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