Make us your home page
Instagram

Andre Rieu aims to have Tampa Bay area hearing a waltz

TAMPA

He's the Thomas Kinkade of classical music, painting nostalgic castles of sound with an orchestra he named after the king of waltzes and his own violin, a sound that warms the soul.

Critics have called André Rieu sentimental, even saccharine, a musician who has watered down great music until it is palatable for the masses. He has cried all the way to the bank.

Now the Dutch conductor brings his spectacle to the Amalie Arena, where he will conduct the Johann Strauss Orchestra in famous film and Broadway scores, operatic arias and waltzes. You might hear White Christmas or the Ave Maria sung by an opera star, see the odd comedy bit, dancers gliding to the Blue Danube Waltz or extravagant lighting that paints sunsets and picks up slivers of confetti shot from a cannon.

The details are important because they stem from his desires, and Rieu, 68, has followed his desires like holy commandments for decades.

More than 600,000 fans a year share his tastes. Rieu's tours grossed $40.2 million in 2016, coming in 23rd on Billboard's highest-grossing list, just behind the Dave Matthews Band. His most recent album, Falling in Love, climbed to No. 7 on the charts two weeks after its release a year ago.

None of this might have happened had Rieu listened to the musical authorities, starting with his father, André Rieu Sr., who conducted the Maastricht Symphony Orchestra.

"He was I think a fine musician," Rieu told the Times. "But for him it was only classical music. I think there is no difference between classical and nonclassical. For me there is only good and bad music."

Rieu studied several instruments as a child, taking piano lessons in a medieval castle. He hated the piano and loved the castle. He swore that someday if he ever got the money, he would buy that castle on the Meuse River.

He was smitten by the young woman who taught him violin, an early crush that, he acknowledges, shaped both his choice of instrument and romantic approach the music.

"Romance is very important in life, and certainly in my music," Rieu said.

He met Marjorie Kochmann when he was 13 and she was 15. Love at first sight, the couple has said ever since. They married in the mid 1970s, while he was studying with renowned Hungarian violinist André Gertler at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels. Her encouragement and financial resourcefulness helped him form his first orchestra.

"I was playing in a classical orchestra myself, and she saw that I was unhappy before every rehearsal," he said. "And after rehearsal she saw I was more unhappy. She said, 'I'm going to find money for you to follow your dream.' "

That led to the formation of the Johann Strauss Orchestra, which has grown from a dozen members to more than 60 today. He liked the egalitarian crowds he drew, and began catering to them even more. A promising sign came at a 1994 performance at an Amsterdam soccer stadium before 60,000 fans.

"I played the Shostakovich Waltz No. 2," Rieu recalled, "and the whole stadium was loving this piece and singing. That was sort of a breakthrough in my career. Nobody would have thought that a soccer audience would sing Shostakovich."

Years later, he would buy the castle built in 1492 once owned by his piano teacher. He renovated it, adding a greenhouse for the butterflies he imports from Costa Rica.

Setbacks along the way include a 2008 World Stadium Tour, which lugged massive sets across continents; the overhead left him $34 million in debt. He doesn't regret any of it. The tour rebounded from bankruptcy in 2009, grossing $95.8 million.

Besides, Rieu said, "As an artist, you must have some sparkle in you that you are right and all the others are wrong."

Asked who at André Rieu Productions is tasked with telling the CEO he is wrong, Rieu named Marjorie and their son, Pierre.

"But now as we speak, I just came back from a castle I visited in Germany," he said. "I came back and I said, 'I'd like to do a big open-air concert there in the middle of winter.' "

His family and advisers all spiked the idea, Rieu said.

"But I think it's going to happen."

Contact Andrew Meacham at ameacham@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2248. Follow @torch437.

. If you go

André Rieu

The concert starts at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Amalie Arena, 401 Channelside Drive, Tampa. $66 and up. Toll-free 1-800-854-2196.

amaliearena.com.

MORE ON STAGE

MORE STAGE: Performing arts news and reviews

SEARCH: Find hundreds of upcoming shows by date and venue

FOLLOW: Things To Do on Facebook

Andre Rieu aims to have Tampa Bay area hearing a waltz 10/27/17 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 31, 2017 5:25pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2018 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Brooksville Raid returns with full slate of Civil War-era events

    Events

    SPRING HILL — History calls it a "skirmish" that included 240 Union soldiers who pillaged through Hernando County in July 1864, destroying farmland and homes. An advanced guard of 10 men overcame the Confederates, capturing seven "home guard" men and nine horses. A brief fight led to the slight wounding of a Union …

  2. Local craft beer of the week: Electric Wizard IPA from 7venth Sun Brewery

    Bars & Spirits

    The past six months have been kind to Dunedin's 7venth Sun Brewery. In August, the brewery's long-awaited Tampa expansion finally happened, with its much larger Seminole Heights facility and tasting room opening in a town eager to try its range of ultra-fresh IPAs and exotic, foeder-fermented brews.

  3. Bar review: Florida spirits and brews at the newest Local Draught House in Tampa

    Bars & Spirits

    I don't consider myself "old" — though I have gotten into a bad habit of informing door people insistent on checking my ID that I'm halfway to 70. But I'm frequently made aware of how far removed my lifestyle is from that of my 20s.

  4. Things to Do in Pasco and Hernando counties starting Jan. 19

    Events

    Festivals

    Florida Agriculture and Wildlife Expo and Rodeo: The three-day event will be from 4 to 10 p.m. Jan. 19, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Jan. 20 and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Jan. 21 at Brooksville-Tampa Bay Airport, 2495 Broad St., south of Brooksville. Features the 2018 Brooksville Rodeo with the Professional …

  5. Inside American Stage's plan to offer free or reduced admission to young people

    Stage

    ST. PETERSBURG

    An air compressor did most of the talking as the small crew stapled down flooring to the stage. A master carpenter kept unskilled but eager workers on track, telling them where to line up edges. An astringent smell of glue permeated the set of A Raisin in the Sun, opening Jan. 26 at American …