Andre Rieu, "king of waltz," fiddles his way to stardom

Thu Feb 12, 2009 10:36pm EST
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By Belinda Goldsmith

CANBERRA (Reuters) - It's not often a classical violinist ranks alongside pop stars like Madonna and Bon Jovi on the concert tour circuit. Then again, Andre Rieu has not followed a conventional path.

The Dutch violinist and conductor has carved out a career playing the waltz, performing to massive crowds around the world, most recently in Australia, with his fans in the habit of getting up and dancing in the aisles.

Rieu, who ranked eighth in Pollstar's 2008 list of the world's top touring acts with revenue of US$76.9 million, says he is delighted to see his audiences having so much fun -- and just as delighted for his critics to see that enjoyment.

"I never asked people to dance in the aisles but they do it and they have fun. People often ask if I am disturbed when people dance as I play the Danube but not at all. It is great to see they are alive," he told Reuters.

"When I play a waltz, I can see the whole audience starting to move and smile, but every night you see two or three people who do not move as they don't want to be like that ... but we live in a free world and they don't have to come."

Rieu, 59, who has been dubbed the king of waltz by media -- and by some critics, the king of schmaltz -- says music is his life. He was raised by a father who was a symphony conductor and began playing the violin from the age of five.

He studied at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels and in 1987, set up the Johann Strauss Orchestra with original 12 members. It now has up to 50 musicians.

Rieu's revival of the waltz has put him in the global spotlight and made him a concert tour sensation, winning him credit for doing as much for the waltz as Michael Flatley did for Irish dancing.   Continued...