Has André Rieu ever played a serious violin concerto

October 5, 2020, 5:45 AM · It’s very rare to see him playing any of those classical violin repertoire

Replies (38)

October 5, 2020, 6:31 AM · When Strauss makes all the big bucks, why would you waste time and energy learning big, hard, monolithic concertos your audience won't even care to listen to?
October 5, 2020, 7:54 AM · My guess is that he has reached at least the Bruch Level.
October 5, 2020, 9:41 AM · I’m pretty sure he’s way past the level of bruch.
October 5, 2020, 10:26 AM · Well he studied with Andre Gertler and got first prize at the Brussels conservatory, so he has probably played the entire standard repertoire, but I don't think that's been his lane for many decades, and I can't imagine he would have a reason to, although I bet he keeps his chops up well enough that he might be able to put together a credible performance if he felt like it. Maybe not.
October 5, 2020, 10:40 AM · I would add to Christians reply. Rieu is a talented musician and a great showman. He provides employment to an entire orchestra, and all the associated support staff required for touring. He is a great entertainer, choosing accessible music and filling huge venues. The OP's question may be innocent but, to me, it smacks of musical snobbery.
Edited: October 5, 2020, 11:21 AM · I was confused by what the OP is asking. Has he ever worked on a violin concerto? Based on his training, yes. Has he ever publicly performed a violin concerto as a professional soloist? That’s harder to answer.

I’m not sure the question shows snobbery. It could just be ignorance. Even in classical music, there are audience members who assume that a violinist who chooses to perform a recital of Mozart or Handel sonatas must be doing it because they can’t handle Paganini caprices or a romantic concerto.

Edited: October 5, 2020, 11:32 AM · If Rieu decided to include a performance of "standard rep" at one of his concerts, he'd be foolish to take the violin into his own hands when there is likely a long list of mega-stars who would eagerly accept the invitation to perform with him. I bet Hilary Hahn or Augustin Hadelich would jump at the chance. (Furthermore, Ms. Hahn would look fabulous in a dirndl, and Mr. Hadelich would look just as good in lederhosen! They'd be smashing and dashing, meanwhile Rieu can laugh all the way to the bank.)
October 5, 2020, 11:50 AM · Shiny lederhosen, Paul?
October 5, 2020, 12:01 PM · I would hope for the more traditional gear personally.
October 5, 2020, 6:29 PM · At one point, I think he played in one of the radio orchestras in Belgium. So presumably he had enough concertos in his fingers to survive the audition.

I do remember, though, that someone on another board got a giggle by referring to him as "world famous in Belgium." Which may be about right.

October 6, 2020, 5:03 AM · Whatever anybody thinks about Rieu's ability when compared to people like Anna Sophie Mutter or Itzhak Perlman or [fill in name of famous soloist] he has found a musical niche which he and others like Chris Botti on trumpet have filled very nicely. They have brought classical music to a wider audience, they are making fortunes doing it (can the same be said for most classical musicians?), and many of the young people who are exposed to their music are being turned on to the possibility that classical music might just be a bit more exciting than the blue-haired audiences at most local orchestra concerts indicate.

He's a success -- don't knock it. When the world thinks nothing of paying professional athletes obscene amounts of money for playing "kids' games" it's nice to think that some in the classical music world are able to make that kind of money and in the process provide livelihoods for many other musicians, technicians, arrangers, composers, as well.

And don't knock being famous in Belgium -- Belgium is a very nice country! I wish I were famous in Belgium. Come to think of it, I wish I were famous anywhere!

October 6, 2020, 6:50 AM · I don't like those messages, David. I hear them every time, and there's nothing nice or incredible about them.

"They have brought classical music to a wider audience"
Yes, but that alone means absolutely nothing. A modern DJ could mix some hip hop beats with a violin concerto such as Bruch or Mendelssohn and make that violin concerto viral. I would cut my veins if I even listen to that abomination. Viral and famous per se mean nothing, so there's nothing good just because about that.

"they are making fortunes doing it (can the same be said for most classical musicians?)"
No, it can't be said. So what?
Making millions playing Vivaldi means nothing to music lovers. We care about the performance, not irrelevant data such as money. Why would you even talk about money now?

Oh, these "athletes" making millions, I guess you refer to NBA and football in Europe, they don't play kid's games, there's an incredible amount of work behind a match, and since you care that much about "providing livelihoods for other techs, etc", the millions these sports move touch a huge and wide amount of jobs.

Stop focusing on money, people!

October 6, 2020, 7:08 AM · David thanks for the kind words about Belgium! We need it <3
Edited: October 7, 2020, 6:08 PM · I must admit that I had this question in the back of my mind for years. But after seeing Andre Rieu's bona fides I realized he had taken a different path. Unlike the path taken by violin virtuosos and even many symphony players his path may enable him to continue his present career well into his 80s.

That said, I have a soft spot in my emotions for Mr. Rieu. I well remember the afternoon almost 20 years ago, sitting in our car with my wife, listening to FM radio, while waiting in the middle-school parking lot to pick up our granddaughter, when suddenly they played from Andre Rieu's latest CD his violin solo version of "Song to the Moon" from Dvorak's opera, Rusalka. I had been unfamiliar with the opera and as well as that aria, but it was so beautiful. Within a few days I found sheet music of the song at our local music store (the only copy they had-pretty old!) and managed to buy it for $10 (half the list price) - still in the original 6 flats. I have transposed to a friendlier key for the various instruments I play. Anyhow the fact that I still remember all this tells you what effect this had on me.

I started to follow a number of Rieu's appearances on PBS-TV and to own a few of his DVDs & CDs. Although by now I have tired of hearing the same tunes and even the rainbow of colorful gowns. But I still have to give him credit for his "creation" and finding and building its market.

October 6, 2020, 9:14 AM · The phrase wasn't "famous in Belgium." The phrase was "world famous in Belgium." Get it? GET IT?
October 6, 2020, 10:33 AM · J Kim,

He's a serious player and is the most successful violinist alive, based on metrics such as audience attendance and tour revenue. He also donated all the scaffolding from his sets to the restoration of Notre Dame after the fire, so he's clearly a decent guy.

Paul N., you feel very strongly about classical music, and that's wonderful. I would argue that Andre Rieu is doing his part in keeping certain music alive and, more important, accessible. He plays what he likes, he employs many talented musicians, technical crew, and support staff who all get to bring music to the stage for a very large, vibrant audience.

I can't knock the guy for doing what he loves, making a heck of a living doing it, and providing jobs and joy to so many people.

Yesterday in my class I was talking to my college freshmen about violin varnish and I asked them if anyone could name a famous violinist. Half the class raised their hands and all had the same answer: Lindsey Sterling. And do you know, they aren't wrong. I didn't ask for best technique or best mastery of the classic repertoire. I asked about famous, and if that helps a kid pick up a fiddle and find lifelong enjoyment playing it, then I think that's wonderful.

October 6, 2020, 10:59 AM · I didn't have any derogatory comments towards Andre Rieu, I am just curious as to why such a "classically trained" musician has never performed a violin concerto in the public (not to mention he has the privilege to hire the entire orchestra)

Hard to believe such a neutral question was interpreted as "musical snobbery"

Edited: October 6, 2020, 11:52 AM · It would really seem to be the most competitive path in classical music to be a professional soloist, and many who might have the talent for it don't make their living in that way. Maybe:

-They have stage fright and it affects their playing or they can play but find it too stressful
-They are a fantastic player but just don't get lucky or have the right connections
-They don't like being on the road for months at a time
-They actually aren't interested in the solo repertoire, and prefer to play other music
-They like a certain kind of audience interaction that they don't get as a soloist
-They don't want to play political games and go find the "it" teachers and get on their good sides in competitions to slog through making their names

There are so many possible reasons why someone might not get the chance to make a certain kind of career, or might not want to. Perhaps there is an enlightening interview with Rieu somewhere.

I hear Strauss on the radio and flip the channel (and they're doing a pledge drive today, so that was about an hour ago for me), so I don't really care about what he does. I remember a buddy of mine going, "you play violin, come here and check out this girl Vanessa Mae", and I made sure to not let my face give my thoughts away. Different strokes for different folks, after all, but she found something that worked for her, and I can't say whether her crossover stuff was a preference of hers, or the result of not being able to achieve what she wanted elsewhere, but good for her for making her crappy music that really resonates with people.

Edited: October 6, 2020, 2:33 PM · In this terribly challenging time, let us be thankful that we all live in an era with such a broad and varied art form and a host of varied artists who are available to so many in this world. And let us be thankful that so many people with different musical and performance preferences have almost daily opportunities to be entertained, inspired, and emotionally moved by some or all of it. These are opportunities that did not exist until recent times.
October 6, 2020, 4:10 PM · I don't know how much I buy the idea that Andre Rieu (or any other pop-violinist) brings classical music to the masses, whether in terms of support for the arts or in actual players.

I'm sure the effect is not zero, I myself owe some part or my violin playing to pop violinists, but I don't think it's honest to say he is "bringing classical music to a wider audience" or "making it appealing to young people" in such a romantic way.

This equally applies to Lindsey Stirling, Two Cellos, Youtube violinists, heck even David Garrett. I think there is a hopeful notion that such an effect will take place, but I think most teachers will tell you that people, especially adults, who follow pop violin are likely to quit and/or not practice once they realize the difficulty, and just by looking around classical music concerts, I doubt that these fans are attending local performances. Maybe some professional orchestras handle youth outreach so horribly (coughChicagocough) that pop violinists just look amazing in comparison.

I guess to frame a counter-example, Captain Tsubasa inspired a generation of Japanese (and Latin American) soccer players. It's hard to imagine the same being said of Andre Rieu's audience, or the guys who like the way Taylor Davis looks in a skirt.

That being said, to answer OPs original question, Andre Rieu is certainly capable of playing most of the stuff in the standard repertoire at a very high level if he put in the time to polish it.

Edited: October 7, 2020, 7:41 AM · Holland's most popular cheese.

https://luxe-magazine.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/FI-20.jpg

According to Wiki, he had studied violin for 23 years, 10 of which had been spent in conservatories (dates ambiguous) before winning "premier prix" at Brussels (Wiki's quotation marks, not mine) at the age of 28.

Using Oxford terminology, he was perhaps a "Slog".
(A First is a "Natural"; a Second is a "Slog"; a Third is a "Gentleman".). I dare say he could play Pag 1, badly, if you paid him enough.

Playing nothing but Johann Strauss isn't bringing classical music to the masses.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8ihtu6hFba4

Edited: October 7, 2020, 6:30 AM · I'm not sure Andre Rieu is 'bringing classical music to the masses'. The Strauss waltzes and polkas are perhaps a late nineteenth century form of pop big band.

Then those "vibrant audiences". Most people in those Rieu audiences are pretty old, too. And that's okay. And, they are, just like some classical audiences, very much in need of the stuff they already know. The only difference is they can clap along with the music, without anybody frowning.

As to the 'he's getting rich, which is more than classical artists can say'. Well... the big name classical soloists and conductors, depending on how long they've been performing are very well off, too, with homes in London and New York and other seven digit properties. Guys like Barenboim, Perlman and Ma are seriously rich, because they command huge fees and they've been around forever.

The only difference is that Rieu really does not have the technical and musical chops to stand there all by himself and play Brahms in a way that would sell out Carnegie or the Musikverein. So it's pretty clever he found a way to fame and fortune the other way.

October 7, 2020, 7:37 AM · Maybe Rieu isn't bringing Mahler and Beethoven to the masses. But he is bringing the idea that it's possibly enjoyable to sit for 90 minutes and listen to an orchestra with actual violins in it. From among his audiences, who knows what kind of "music lovers" might evolve? The old saying, "You've got to start somewhere" applies well here, I believe. If a man who drives a pickup truck with a Gadsden Flag license plate and a "3" decal in his window decides to buy a ticket to his local orchestra after listening to Andre Rieu, that's a victory. How many regional orchestras do "holiday pops" concerts for just the same reason? Ours does, and we go every year.
Edited: October 7, 2020, 7:57 AM · Perhaps most here are living too much in the bubble. Its not a case any longer whether people 'like' classical music, in my experience, its got to the point of have you heard of classical music. Its no longer on the TV media (as for example Bugs Bunny or Peanuts) and its no longer in the schools. Forget about providing an entre to Mozart and Brahms, what Rieu and the other mentioned artists do is to introduce the instruments themselves to people. I suspect that Rieu is mostly a nostalgia merchant and while amusing and attracting the older set (valuable in itself), is not really doing much to attract youth.

Sadly, Covid may be the nail in the coffin for the very genre that we in our V.com bubble breathe. Perhaps that is the topic we should be discussing...

I have started one....

October 7, 2020, 8:59 AM · https://www.nytimes.com/2016/12/21/arts/andre-rieu-dutch-violinist-dazzles.html

I don't know Rieu too well but I always think 'Liberace' when I see him in the TwoSet roasts. Not my thing at all but I think it's great to have folks making classical and orchestral music accessible (although John Williams is more my style).

October 7, 2020, 11:18 AM · Don't criticise Rieu too much - Laurie, the noodle-head classical music wonk loves him!
https://www.violinist.com/blog/laurie/201710/22471/
October 7, 2020, 1:30 PM · Rieu could probably work up a creditable Brahms or Tschaikovsky and surprise his audience with this sometime, but why on earth would he be motivated to do so? He has found something that works for him, so unless he has some kind of mid or late life crisis, it is unlikely that he will change his formula.
October 7, 2020, 1:35 PM · I'm very disappointed that none of the Beatles could play any of the Paganini Caprices and I'm considering calling the violin police!
October 7, 2020, 1:35 PM · I'm very disappointed that none of the Beatles could play any of the Paganini Caprices and I'm considering calling the violin police!
Edited: October 7, 2020, 3:32 PM · Just to tidy things here a little, André Rieu is Dutch, comes from a musical family (his father was an orchestral conductor), and started learning the violin at the age of 5, which, if continued through childhood and later, can be an indicator of future high-level ability on the instrument. The honours he has been awarded include a knighthood in the Netherlands. The violin he plays is his own Stradivarius.

Rieu was born in, and still resides in Maastricht (Netherlands), which is about 90km along the road from Leuven in Belgium where the Belgian side of my family live.

@ Jean and David, I love Belgium too and visit family there whenever possible, Covid-19 restrictions permitting.

October 7, 2020, 3:33 PM · Folks, “love” is a strong word. I respect and appreciate what he has done, and so I interviewed him!
October 9, 2020, 8:24 PM · Let me just add my $0.02. Back about 15 years ago, Rieu recorded a piece -- a march -- composed by a cousin of my grandfather's who was a prominent Tin Pan Alley composer. I asked my music theory/history teacher whether my family should feel honored or slimed. He said we should feel honored because Rieu was a serious musician.
October 9, 2020, 11:51 PM · Actually, Elise, more people listen to classical music than ever before. The easy access to it on digital platforms -- and especially the rise of cheap Naxos CDs before that -- has effectively democratized the art form. About a third of listeners are under the age of 35.

A UK study (LINK) indicates that the pandemic has been really good for young people doing more classical streaming in the UK.

October 10, 2020, 4:37 PM · What about Rieu the "organization" instead of the man? How many musicians get a paycheck from performing with him? From my perspective, I see more women musicians working with Rieu than in most (all?) other EU Orchestras.

Does everyone who goes to one of his concerts become a "Classical Fan?" No, but I'll bet that his organization has been a gateway to loving music for more than a few people.

Perhaps we, today, think that music must be serious stuff. At the same time I listen to Bach's Brandenburg Concertos and realize that he was anything but a dour old sourpuss. More likely the guy you went out with and shared both beer and laughter.

Rieu has built a successful business selling Strauss and schmaltz and I have to believe that his smile, and that of the musicians who work for him, that smile is real, just as that of the broad age range of his audiences.

How many dour-sourpusses have you seen at a classical concert? I've seen a few but never in Rieu's audience.

October 10, 2020, 8:29 PM · ...and he definitely can play a concerto.
Edited: October 24, 2020, 6:54 PM · As far as I can see André Rieu performs the kind of music he loves and this with great success. There is obviously an audience for his concept and the audience is so big so there is sufficient income to pay 50 musicians and a lot of soloist and/or guest stars and there are resources to establish new concerts and a continuous flow of fantastic events.
October 28, 2020, 11:27 AM · When I was four, my dad took me to two different concerts: Tower of Power and a concert of André Rieu (with my grandma, because she obviously loved it). Around the same age I got a violin for the first time. Was this because of my visit to Rieu's Concert (and meeting him afterwards) and hearing music that sounded accessible/like I could do something with it? Probably! And I'm thankful for it.

Lacking patience and a good connection with my teacher I quit and started to take classic ballet classes and developed skills from there, because I still loved the classical music.
My dad loves it too, studied classic organ, so it might be in my DNA anyway, but seeing Rieu doing what he loves and bringing joy to many (in the form of a paycheck or a fun night out), might have been one example that has shown me that it is possible to do whatever you want and have fun doing it.
Don't forget he doesn't only have skills as a musician. Maybe instead of practicing a difficult concerto, he has acquired other skills some other musicians lack and makes them sit at home even if they'll play way better. He's probably one of the best employers in the world, which deserves respect indeed.

Hearing my body was not made for me to become a ballerina I went to a musical theater school where I learned many other dance forms.
But guess what? Ballet, was still my favorite course. Even though, it would never work for me later on in my career. The commercial popular dances got me way further.
Can I still dance the four swans choreography? Probably. On a high professional level, like the one of the Paris National Ballet star? Probably not. So why would I? Yes just for fun, but it wouldn't get me a nice gig if I'd perform it during an audition.
I might have done more projects than someone that practices a hard piece all day long, but no one is interested in seeing/hearing it.
Does this mean I've not been a professional well skilled dancer, just because I never performed as Giselle or Sleeping Beauty? Don't think so. What's wrong with following a path that is obviously made for you and share positive vibes?

I now have a knee injury, so I picked up the violin. Cause I still have a weak spot for the violin, waltzes and lyrical pieces (and Funk, because of the ToP concert). (Partially) thanks to Rieu? Probably.

No, I can't hear The Beautiful Blue Danube anymore. (One time I visited Vienna in summer and the only concerts available outside the theater season were touristy Strauss concerts. Crossing the river, guess which song was played?).
I also can't hear 'It's a small world' anymore and many other songs that work as a magnet and give joy to a large audience.
I bet ballerina's might be tired performing Swan Lake and the Nutcracker for Christmas.

But as long as there's music in our lifes...
As long as anything we do can inspire people to do what they love, put a smile on people's faces and brighten up people's life...
That's all that matters, right? Especially during these times.

I much rather send people go to one easy accessible concert of Rieu and know about the Radetzky March, then to not know there has been other types of music in the history of life than House.

October 28, 2020, 12:45 PM · I've said it before and I'll say it again, my favourite Dutch violinist since the early 1970s has always been Herman van Veen.


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