André Rieu: Falling in love with my music teacher was the first step on the ladder of success

Ahead of his UK tour, André Rieu took time to talk to Lorraine Wylie about growing up in Maastricht and why, falling in love with his music teacher, proved the first step on the ladder of success.

For almost four decades, André Rieu, creator of the Yohan Strauss Orchestra, violinist and entertainer extraordinaire, has been travelling the globe, sweeping audiences off their feet and proving Shakespeare right - music truly is the food of love. His recipe, a unique blend of beautiful symphonies sprinkled with stunning performances, has not only captured the heart of music lovers but secured him over 40 million in album sales.

Voted the world’s most successful touring artist he has outsold some of the industry’s heavyweights, including Beyonce and Springsteen and in 2024he will be touring the UK and Ireland including dates in Sheffield and Leeds.

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“My father was a conductor, and he wanted us children to learn about music,” he says. “To become a musician, you must learn a whole set of skills, including singing, which helps train the ear. I spent ten years in a choir. Initially, when I was just five years old, I was sent for piano lessons. They were held in a castle which was very dark, and damp and my teacher was not nice at all. I didn’t like her. But my violin teacher was wonderful. Young and beautiful with blonde hair, I think that, even though I was just five, I fell a little in love with her. She had this incredible tone that I loved and after, just three weeks, I had (achieved) the same tone. You know, I think a teacher can make all the difference to a child’s education. Nowadays they blame the books or the line of study but really, the example set by the teacher or professor can make a huge difference.”

Andre Rieu performs in Munich, Germany. (Photo by Sebastian Widmann/Getty Images)Andre Rieu performs in Munich, Germany. (Photo by Sebastian Widmann/Getty Images)
Andre Rieu performs in Munich, Germany. (Photo by Sebastian Widmann/Getty Images)

Fast forward seven decades and Rieu’s reputation for having revolutionized the classical music industry has earned him the title ‘King of Waltz.’ As musical royalty, it seems only fitting that the ‘King’ should live in a castle. Interestingly, the Rieu family home, ‘Huis De Torentjes,’ is the same chateau he visited as a boy. It is also said to be the place where the real D’Artagnan ate his last breakfast before going off to die on the battlefield.

“I always dreamed of living in this castle. I wanted to fill it with beautiful paintings and things that meant a lot to me. Now, I have my dream. However, as you can imagine, restoring and maintaining such an old lady is hard work. It is never ending! I have no sooner finished at the back when it’s time to start again at the front.”

With 27 bedrooms the 17th century chateau has no shortage of space but when André wants to get away from it all, he heads for the Butterly House. Built within the Castle’s grounds and home to over 250 butterflies, its where the King of Waltz finds an oasis of calm.

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“I have been interested in nature from as far back as I can remember and when I was a child I even had frogs and snakes. The first time I was in a butterfly house, one landed on my shoulder, and I thought it magical. I’ve always wanted to keep butterflies and when we got the castle, I decided to build an Orangery where we have created a special space with flowers, plants etc, all the things that butterflies love. The result is a winter garden with a tropical atmosphere with lots of these wonderful creatures. I spend a lot of time there Its where I relax, unwind, contemplate and find inspiration.”

Andre Rieu performs prior to the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 First Leg match between Ajax and Real Madrid at Johan Cruyff Arena on February 13, 2019 in Amsterdam, Netherlands.  (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)Andre Rieu performs prior to the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 First Leg match between Ajax and Real Madrid at Johan Cruyff Arena on February 13, 2019 in Amsterdam, Netherlands.  (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)
Andre Rieu performs prior to the UEFA Champions League Round of 16 First Leg match between Ajax and Real Madrid at Johan Cruyff Arena on February 13, 2019 in Amsterdam, Netherlands. (Photo by Lars Baron/Getty Images)

Back in 2020, the event known as ‘Lockdown’ brought the world to a standstill and the music business to the brink of collapse. For some, the enforced confinement stifled creativity but for André Rieu, it was an opportunity to explore other outlets.

“I turned my attention to baking and was soon making cakes for my amusement,” he chuckles. “One recipe, gooseberry and cream proved a favourite and before long, I was baking cakes for friends, neighbours and just about everyone.”

Perhaps if he hadn’t become a famous musician, André might have become a Master Chef.

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“No, I don’t think so! If I hadn’t become a musician, I think I would have become an architect. I love buildings. In the old days, I would build with my own hands but now, of course, I must be careful I don’t want to hurt my hands, so I get professionals to do the heavy work. I am very curious about the world and am interested in everything, including politics, history and big questions like, why are we humans here, what is our purpose on earth? I’m constantly thinking and then, suddenly, whoops, a piece of music jumps into my head, perfectly in keeping with my thoughts. That’s how music works in my life and I love sharing it with others.”

No doubt, the secret of Rieu’s success is his attention to detail. Does he consider himself a perfectionist?

“Yes, you got it right!” He laughs. “You see, I have the whole show in my head. I know exactly how it should be so I make sure everything is correct. Ultimately, I am responsible, from the smallest detail to the big important things, it is all down to me. You know, everything must be kept real. Even the champagne in the show is real. I’ve even designed the dresses of the girls in the performance because it is important that they appear exactly how they are in my dream!”

Married to his Marjorie for over four decades, the couple have two sons and five grandchildren.

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“We’ll be married 49 years this year! You know, believe it or not, we think the same way. Very often I’ll go to tell her something and she’ll take the words out of my mouth and say exactly what I’d been thinking. It’s incredible! I love many things about her, but I really respect her humour. I think it’s important to allow each other freedom. We are both individuals, but we are together at the same time. Does that make sense?!”

The Yohan Strauss Orchestra which began with just twelve members, now boasts over sixty musicians and is considered the largest privately owned orchestra in the world.

“When we first started out, I never imagined we would grow so big! As well as the orchestra, there are others involved with the shows. Can you believe, when I come to Yorkshire, I will be accompanied by the orchestra and a crew of over 120 people?!”

Not everyone is a fan of Rieu’s music. He has been criticised for being ‘too glitzy’ or for playing music that’s ‘not real classic’. But for the 600000 that turn out every year, buy his albums and enthuse about the ‘happiness’ and ‘love’ that flows through his music, criticism seems irrelevant.

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“I receive thousands of e-mails and letters from people telling me that my music has helped them. I always chose only the songs that mean something to me. For example, in my latest album, Jewels of Romance, I thought carefully, selecting each song like a treasure because I know it will mean something to my audiences also. At my shows, I see this love and the happiness my music brings. It makes me feel proud that I can give this beautiful gift to them.”

For further information on the Yorkshire dates visit

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