Belfast Telegraph

Q&A with the Dutch violinist and conductor Andre Rieu

By Andy Welch

The Dutch violinist and conductor is famous for his colourful live concerts, which he will be bringing to the Odyssey Arena in Belfast later this year.

Q: You were fascinated by orchestral music from a very young age. What was it that drew you in?

A: My father was a conductor and chief of the Limburg Symphony Orchestra. I used to attend all his concerts, even as a young boy. I remember that one night, I must have been eight years old or so, after a 'serious' program, he conducted Johann Strauss' By The Beautiful Blue Danube as an encore. Suddenly the atmosphere in the audience changed. People started to smile. That was what drew me in, the wish to make people happy with music.

Q: You must be looking forward to screening your live concert in cinemas next month?

A: I think it's wonderful and a great opportunity to reach our audiences abroad that unfortunately won't be able to join us live in Maastricht. I am sure if this would have been possible at the time of Mozart, Strauss, Lehar – they would all have done it. It does not replace the live experience but it's a great way to join in.

Q: Will there be any more nerves on the night, knowing that so many more people will see the performance?

A: More nerves? Haha, that would hardly be possible. I'm always terribly nervous when I go on stage, that's inevitable. I think every artist needs this tension before a performance. It's necessary to really get the best out of yourself.

Q: Could this be the future of touring? The performer stays in one place and fans go to the cinema?

A: Oh no. There's nothing as thrilling as getting the vibes from the audience and performing live for them. I would never give up touring. We will be touring the UK and Ireland in December and I hope all our fans will join us for a wonderful night. I see screening concert performances in cinemas as a wonderful addition to touring.

Q: Did you ever think you would move from concert halls into arenas normally occupied by pop and rock stars?

A: We started in traditional venues and concert halls. But I always believed in our concept and, of course, I always hoped that one day we would be able to reach as many people as possible. The biggest concert we ever did was in front of a crowd of 43,000 in Melbourne. It was an absolute dream-come-true for me and truly something that we did not expect when I started my first ensemble in 1978.

Q: There is a huge amount of theatricality to your concerts. Is that something that has arrived with time, or have you always had a flair for the theatrical?

A: Both. I think it's genetic. But it 'broke out' when I played the violin in my father's orchestra when I was in my twenties. Everyone was dressed in black and white, everyone looked so serious, the musicians did not even seem to enjoy the music. I felt that the right images and costumes together with beautiful music could all add up to a wonderful, magical night.

Q: Do you have a favourite composer or piece of music to perform?

A: Favourite composer – yes, Johann Strauss. Favourite piece – of course: The Beautiful Blue Danube. Adieu, Mein Kleiner Gardeoffizier by Robert Stolz is my wife's favourite, probably because we say 'Adieu' so much when I go on tour.

Andre Rieu's 2014 Maastricht Concert will be screened live on Saturday, July 19. For participating cinemas, visit www.cinemalive.com. The live tour will touch down in Belfast on December 5. For details, visit www.odyssey arena.com

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