André Léon Marie Nicolas Rieu
(born 1 October 1949) is a Dutch violinist and conductor best known for
creating the waltz-playing Johann Strauss Orchestra. Together they have
turned classical and waltz music into a worldwide concert touring act,
as successful as some of the biggest global pop and rock music acts. For
his work, Rieu has been awarded such honours as the Order of the
Netherlands Lion by the Netherlands, the Knight of the Ordre des Arts et
des Lettres by France, and the Honorary Medal by his native Province of
At university he performed the Gold And Silver Waltz by Franz Lehár.
Encouraged by the audience reaction he decided to pursue the waltz form.
Rieu formed the Maastricht Salon Orchestra, and served as violinist
with the Limburg Symphony Orchestra. In 1987, he created the Johann
Strauss Orchestra and established his own production company. Since
then, his melodramatic stage performances and rock-star demeanor have
been widely associated with a revival of the waltz music category. André
Rieu plays a 1667 Stradivarius violin.
In spite of its wide international success, Rieu's mix of waltzes,
popular music, comedy, and pathos has attracted its critics. While
extreme, David Templeton's view in the magazine All Things Strings is
Ironically, it is Rieu’s own success that has earned
him a horse-drawn carriage full of criticism, a pot-shot laden backlash
aimed chiefly at the calculated emotionalism and theatrical flourishes
of his performances, which, according to many, only cheapen the
classical-music experience. Classical radio stations avoid his music as
they might avoid a leper in the mall, though—let’s just say it plain and
clear—Rieu is a superb violinist.
Of Rieu's popularity and the media debate surrounding him, Eamon Kelly
wrote in The Australian newspaper: "It is disappointing to see
professional journalists indulging in cheap, inaccurate stereotypes to
dismiss criticism of Rieu." But he goes on to add: "Equally misguided
are those who cursorily dismiss Rieu. Rieu's live and recorded
performances have brought joy to millions of people. Few in his
audiences are regular classical music attendees and it could be seen as
promising that, via Rieu, they are listening to standards of the
classical canon. The fact that Rieu's focus is on highly accessible,
enjoyable repertoire is not an argument against his musical
Chris Boyd, a critic writing for Melbourne's Herald Sun newspaper, found
he could not give a general criticism of Rieu's playing, as, except for
"a clean and lyrical solo in Waltzing Matilda", his main stage function
was apparently "blarney and delegation". However, Boyd also comments
that the quality of the artists with whom Rieu works is "extraordinary".
Rieu has been married to wife Marjorie (b. 1951) since 1975; they have
two sons, Marc (b. 1978) and Pierre (b. 1981). Studied in German and
Italian, film science, and French literature, Marjorie serves as her
husband's full-time production manager and writes children's books.
Rieu engages his audiences in a variety of languages. Along with Dutch
(including his native Limburgish), he also speaks (in order of fluency)
English, German, French and Italian.