Interview Telegraaf/PrivéPerforming during the Easter weekend??? No!
Telegraaf/Privé, April 7, 2023. By Harrie Nijen Twilhaar, Photo by Marcel van Hoorn. Translation: Ineke.Maestro celebrates holidays with family André Rieu: 'Performing during the Easter weekend? No thank you!' André Rieu will keep his violin and bow in the case for the next few days. After a busy period of a series of performances abroad, the maestro takes a break to spend time with his family. And so, we should not expect Easter concerts. "What does that look like? With colored eggs and an Easter bunny?” He may have been raised a strict Catholic, but family man André Rieu does not like a big Easter performance in Vatican City. Just like all other holidays, the King of the Waltz celebrates Easter at home. “I cook something delicious and the children and grandchildren will probably come along,” says the Limburg maestro in conversation with Privé. “We do go, as we do every year, with family and friends to Rome for a few days. Not to the Vatican, by the way.” You haven't been idle these past few months. “We have been very busy indeed. At the beginning of this year, we toured Germany and recently we were in Bahrain for the first time. That was very special! Then we flew to Spain, where we performed in Málaga, Barcelona and Madrid. After Easter we will resume our tour and travel across the United Kingdom. Starting with London.”Have you ever considered giving an Easter concert in the famous St. Peter's Square in the Vatican City? "No definitely not. I would like to perform in Italy, but just in a hall or in the open air, as we always do. Although Italy is my favorite holiday country, as a tourist I can still enjoy it anonymously and casually sit on a terrace... An Easter concert in the Netherlands? How am I supposed to see that? With colored eggs and an Easter bunny? Ha, ha, ha, no. Easter is a very different kind of celebration than Christmas, for which people are in the mood for weeks in advance. Busy buying presents, putting up a Christmas tree, decorating the house.” You are a fan of the St Matthew Passion."Enormous! The time before Easter is anything but festive, especially for religious people. Rather sober. After Carnival, Lent begins, followed by Holy Week – culminating on Good Friday with the St Matthew Passion. Great music, I love it! But the performance of the oratorio – the story of the agony of Jesus Christ, from the Last Supper to the crucifixion – is of course very different from our concerts.” What do you have with religion?“I grew up with it, was even raised a very strict Catholic. All my childhood I sang in a church choir, and I must honestly say that I enjoyed the atmosphere in the mass. Especially on heydays like Christmas and Easter. Then the church pulled out all the stops to make it festive, I was really deeply impressed by that. Many priests on the altar in precious robes, the scent of candles and incense and of course the beautiful music of the choir. That atmosphere has also lingered. Actually, it is a kind of theatre. That certainly influenced me. I'm not religious by the way. But that does not alter the fact that I respect people as they are, with or without any religion.”How did it feel to perform again last summer for the first time in a long time?“Fortunately, we were able to put that nasty corona period behind us. I always had hope that things would turn out okay in the end. We are now enjoying our concerts all over the world again. I'm happy to be back for my loyal fans, who always enjoy the music. I have certainly not forgotten those years. But I can't say it was a tough time for us personally. At first, of course, we were apprehensive and, like everyone else, afraid that it would affect family, friends or ourselves. But once vaccines came out, that fear subsided and we started looking forward to the moment we could start again.” You have had to miss your orchestra members for a long time.“I still remember how happy we all were when we were finally allowed to reunite with the orchestra in the studio. We couldn't give concerts yet, but luckily, we could make music together again! That was the most emotional moment in the entire corona period. We fell into each other's arms crying! We then recorded two albums in a row; a Christmas CD, which was released last holiday season, and a romantic album, which will be in stores next fall. Being able to make music together again was truly one of the most beautiful moments in the history of the Johann Strauss Orchestra, which has been around for 35 years now!” A loyal club, moreover. “A large part of the orchestra has been there since the beginning, so since 1988! But new musicians also join regularly. There is even a second generation of orchestra members. My percussionist, Marcel Falize, has been part of the orchestra since the beginning, as have his three sons for several years now. Last Christmas, even his grandson, 5-year-old Mik Falize, joined in as a little drummer boy. So, then we had three generations of Falize on stage. That was fantastic!”Do you actually still have a private life when you travel so often?"That's my life, ha, ha! At least for the most part. I love being on tour, but it's always nice to come home too. Then I cook every day, I study, I do the shopping and of course I spend a lot of time at the office, because there is always a lot to discuss and arrange.” Does your wife Marjorie always go on tour?“Marjorie works in the office and she loves it. After all, someone has to look after the shop, right? And she writes and translates a lot. Occasionally she goes along, for example to Austria, the Czech Republic or Poland. But she's not working on the road, that's nothing for her. She has little to do with me on tour, because when I have to perform in the evening, I sleep a lot during the day. Either I'm studying or we're already on our way to the next city. Nothing to do for her, ha, ha!” In July you will be at the Vrijthof again for three weekends. What will those performances look like?“At the moment we are still busy with the preparations and we want to keep it exciting. I won't reveal anything, but Marjorie and I came up with beautiful and fun things!”The municipality of Maastricht will undoubtedly be eagerly awaiting the summer.“Maastricht has been very happy for eighteen years with all those tens of thousands of enthusiastic people who come to the Vrijthof from all over the world in July. They not only come for the summer concerts, but also stay in the city for a few days or even a whole week. Then they visit all the beautiful places, also in the area, and enjoy the special atmosphere that Maastricht has. I hear that everywhere we go. Fans would like nothing more than to come to Maastricht one day and experience a concert there, in the home of the Johann Strauss Orchestra.”And then, almost six months later, it's time for your Christmas shows in the MECC. “I am really looking forward to that, because that is really unique. Very different from the Vrijthof, of course, but really... a fairy tale! The MECC will be completely transformed into a beautiful winter wonderland. You just don't know what you see when you enter, you feel like you are in a Charles Dickens story. You will be welcomed by people in Dickens costumes, you will walk through a cozy Christmas market, small groups of wind players will be playing Christmas songs everywhere and there will be stalls with hot chocolate, Christmas cakes and other delicacies. And then the actual party, the concert, has yet to begin!” Which of the two concerts do you prefer? "I can't say that, because you can't compare the two at all. The Christmas performances are wonderful, beautiful, warm, intimate and atmospheric. It really gets you into the Christmas spirit. We have been giving the Vrijthof concerts with great pleasure for almost two decades now. We started with a weekend, three concerts I think, and it has since grown into a great tradition, indispensable in Maastricht. People come from all over the world, the atmosphere on those evenings is one of, well, what should I call it, friendship and love? It's a big party, and that's because of the music. Isn't that fantastic?! The people in the audience don't know each other, but towards the end of the concert they fall into each other's arms, waltz together and leave the square afterwards, brotherly and singing. Everyone is in a good mood and the city is shining!” Is it all physically manageable? “I feel in great shape. I live healthy, eat healthy. I also don't smoke and I don't drink alcohol. We grow our own organic vegetables in our garden, eat fish regularly, and little meat. When I'm at home, I always cook myself. On tour we have an excellent catering team, who also cook fresh and healthy meals for the orchestra and crew every day. In addition, I exercise every day under the guidance of a personal trainer, both at home and on tour. He always joins me. I start the day with 90 minutes of strength training. I also sleep a lot, on tour actually almost all day. It has to be, because during a concert I give everything for three hours!”