It was by complete accident that I stumbled upon the music of Andre Rieu, on Youtube, less than a month ago. I was looking up a piece of classical music and saw a side bar suggestion of Shostakovich’s Second Waltz, being performed by Andre Rieu and the Johann Strauss Orchestra. I had become a fan of Shostakovich after watching Stanley Kubrick’s final film, Eyes Wide Shut, so I figured I would check it out. Sure enough, I was impressed with what I saw. The stage he was performing on was abnormally long, and not your typical stage for a classical music themed performance. But what I noticed about him first was not the music being played, but that he was having fun while doing it. To me, this is what separates him from all other classically trained musicians.
The main reason why I believe that classical music is a dying love today, especially with the younger generations, are because the concerts are pictured as a place where an old, gray-haired conductor stands in front of an orchestra of more gray-haired people and staunchly places himself in one spot, waving his arms in the air for two hours. This may be the picture in your mind, that is, unless you have seen one of Andre Rieu’s performances.
Here is Rieu, 60, with flowing long hair (he reminded me of a character from the 1998 film Le Violin Rouge) and a classy tuxedo, playing the violin and conducting at the same time (no small feat) and he can be seen dancing around the stage and moving to the beat of the tune, while his orchestra sometimes joins in the fun. He also engages his audience, using humor and just plain speaking. For that, he has come under criticism because some feel that his concerts are more showmanship than actual performing. But that is what adds to the fun– his shows are like a Broadway production, and the audience can always be seen dancing in the aisles and singing along. This is what you would expect at a rock concert, not a classical performance.
Of all the rock bands I have listened to, and the great composers whose symphonies I have on CD, Andre Rieu was the first and only musician who I have ever bought a concert DVD of before an actual studio recording CD. This is because he is simply fun to watch. Music aside, I just love going on to Youtube and watching a concert clip or two every day, especially before I go to class, because I leave the house with a happier feeling inside of me.
He has performed almost every famous piece you can possibly imagine. From Ravel’s Bolero, Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana, and Strauss’ Blue Danube, to more modern tunes such as the Benny Hill theme, Yakety Sax. He has even tackled the extremely fun Jewish wedding music Hava Nagila.
For the movie lovers out there, he has performed Nino Rota’s Godfather Theme and the hit Vangelis soundtrack from Conquest of Paradise. Rieu has left no stone unturned since creating his orchestra in 1987. This is what adds to his appeal, because he plays well known music that people today recognize but could not name the composer of.
To those from Australia, Rieu’s work consistently reaches the top of the charts; this is because of two tear-jerkers, Waltzing Matilda and Amazing Grace. My grandfather, who died shortly after I was born, owned hundreds of vinyl albums of bagpipes from England, Scotland and Ireland. My mom tells me he would listen to them all day long. Two of his favorites happened to be the above mentioned tunes, which Rieu played in succession at a concert at the Telstra Dome in Melbourne, Australia in 2008. Every time I hear bagpipes I cannot help but think of my grandfather, who I never got to know, and feel closer to him through music. Both of these tunes are definitely sobering melodies, especially if you have lost a family member.
I really don’t know what else is left to say about Andre Rieu. In a little less than a month, I went from not knowing who he is to being a huge fan. His next tour will be beginning in November with shows in Belgium, and it will end in July, in his home Netherlands, after spanning the world. He will be coming to the US briefly, with shows in California, Nevada, New Mexico, and Florida. I really wish he was coming to New York this time, because I would have gotten tickets to go see him, but it looks like I will have some time to wait before I can see Andre live for the first time.
I highly recommend his music to all that are interested in classical music, but also to those that do not think they can enjoy it. People today are slipping more and more away from classy music that has lasted for hundreds of years, to newer styles that dwindle for a few months before being replaced by something else. If you think classical music is boring, just give Andre Rieu a try, and I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
Please visit Andre’s official website here.
Greg Caggiano is a writer covering sports and entertainment here on “From New York to San Francisco”. If you have any questions or comments, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.