"The Craziest Violinist in The World"
July 2009
She is the best kept secret of André Rieu: his wife Marjorie. For the first time they talk together about their special bond and (work)relations. But only if Mrs. Rieu will not be photographed.

Tekst: Arno Gelder Photo: Joost Hoving

The day after his traditional home celebration in Limburg, his concert series on the Vrijthof in Maastricht, we find André Rieu in his garden at his conference table. He again did not go to bed tonight until 4 AM, but like always, the business in his castle at the foot of the St.Peterberg goes on. The agenda includes a meeting with a wealthy Australian businessman. The topic: a Johann Strauss Orchestra Concert on the North Pole.
André Rieu, a tireless climber of exceeding challenges who wants to perform on the North Pole. But no one can earn a cent with it. Neither me, nor some rich dude.

Initially Rieu’s icy ambitions were dismissed as just another brainy idea of the violinist, a tireless climber of exceeding challenges. But André Rieu is dead serious. “I would have preferred to play on the moon, but there is no venue there. Although the first tourist trips into the universe are only a question of time. If this Australian gentleman and I have anything to say about it, we’ll be on the North Pole. A concert in a snowy landscape. What an atmosphere and scenery! To show the world that The North Pole belongs to everyone, we will invite two people from every country: Americans, Chinese, Kenyans, New Zealanders … About two hundred people, until the icebreaker is filled to capacity. A sort of a human Noah’s Ark, right? Of course it will be on the ice. Which is between one and four meters thick”. “I do have two demands”, he said. “No one may earn anything from it. Neither me, nor some rich dude. And the environmental movements who feel sorry for the North Pole will have to come to an agreement”. Contact has already been made and that is going in the right direction”.

André Manages To Make His Dreams Come True

Marjorie Rieu (61), wife and co-organizer on the business and artistic level of the multinational Rieu, has long given up hope to curb the borderless fantasies of her husband. “In the beginning I was trying to slow him down, but that is an impossible task”, she said sighing and smiling simultaneously. “Most important though is that André is able to make his dreams come true. Once we were admiring the Schönnbrunn Castle in Vienna. “I will copy that” he said. I told him he was crazy. He once had the same idea about the Royal Albert Hall in London. But he succeeded. After his last world tour we were deep in debt. “Sorry, it got a little out of hand,” he then says”.

Recently she was approached to check with André and see if he was interested in becoming a member on the advice committee of the Maastricht Operetta Organization. And whether she had an idea as to how her husband should be described in the brochure? I said; “Make him out to be the 'Craziest Violinist in The World', because that is what he really is”.

Marjorie Rieu might be André’s best kept secret. She very seldom gives interviews ~ photos are a no no. She does join us in a salon, a room that in Rieu’s house seems to date back to the days of the Viennese Empress Sissi. Compared to the tall stand alone violinist and husband, Marjorie Rieu is small in stature. A beautiful and charming figure who during the interview was indeed the thoughtful and sobering counterpart of the impulsive and extraverted André. They have been married for nearly 35 years, but their love dates back to long before their marriage. Marjorie: “I was in the same grade as Theresia, André’s sister. I saw him for the first time during a St.Nicholas evening with the Rieu family. Between his five brothers and sisters, I noticed him immediately . I found him to be different. But during that time then, I was not too much into boys yet. I attended a Catholic girl’s school. And the other sex, well, you barely knew they existed”. Marjorie’s father, being Jewish, had fled in 1933 from Nazi occupied Germany. “My grandfather knew in which direction that would go with Hitler. In Maastricht he had a hat lining business. When the Netherlands was occupied in 1940, my father went into hiding. One of his brothers died in a concentration camp, and the other one fled to England where he, ironically enough, as a German Jew, was with the British Military when they liberated the Netherlands”. She enjoyed a happy childhood, although it was tarnished by Prussian discipline.
A childhood that did not allow you to go through puberty. “My father was typical Prussian”. I was being drilled, order and discipline were defined. Saturday mornings up at six and on Sundays only to speak German. If I said something in the Maastricht dialect, I was totally ignored. I was raised Catholic, but due to the presence of my father and Grandmother, the Jewish faith was also practiced in our home. For a child it had its nice sides, my Jewish Grandmother would bake matzo with honey, and then there were also the Easter eggs on the Catholic side. But I noticed very vividly that in our house the two religions led to a continuing friction. Later on, primarily because of that, I said 'goodbye to religion'.
Was it because of the oppressive, through discipline dictated childhood, that Marjorie and André were brought together? Even André does not look back on what was supposed to be the most beautiful and carefree time in someone’s life. “My father was a director”, he says. A profession he also practiced at home. I was brought up very strict. Going to a café and having a beer? Positively disgraceful. “With me too, religion played a huge role. In school above the blackboard hung a picture of the “All seeing Eye”, scared to death were my classmates. But not me, I fantasized about it. And then of course having to go to confession, even if you only pinched a sugar cube”.

Marjorie, “Then you had to say the act of contrition, a prayer”. André, “And if it was very severe, you would have to say ten Hail Mary’s. And having to memorize the catechism by heart. From such a thick book. I loathed it”.

They married when they were 25 and 27. André: “First we had to catch up on our puberty ~ something we had never experienced. In India-blouses, long hair and a Simca 1000 (old European car) the two of us crossed the border. “What would you ladies like”, said a shopkeeper along the way. During those days we also sought professional help. We carried a lot of grief and resentment with us”. Marjorie, “When as a child you were barely allowed to have feelings, you kept everything inside. That has to be released. We decided what we wanted to keep and what we wanted to discard.

With their children, André and Marjorie knew it would be different. Marc and Pierre enjoyed a freer upbringing with “respect for mankind”. The saying by the German writer Max Frisch, “You will not raise an image of yourself” is our motto. Have no prejudices against your fellow men. I know how hurtful it is when you are convicted and no one knows you. I made classical music popular ~ that was not allowed according to the elite. But who are they? Eight hundred people inside the Amsterdam canal district? But, now I totally belong. I am a guest with “The World Continues to Turn” with Pauw and Witteman. That is nice, but never made an effort. I always do my own thing, and if it necessary, against the flow.

Just like their parents, Marc (1978) artist and father of Ivan, and Pierre (1981) soon to be a father and manager of the Rieu Company, have very different characters. André, “Marc is a dreamer on a cloud. A beautiful individual, a free sprit who studied art history and as an artist produces beautiful works”. Dad shows very proudly several canvasses of landscapes with vibrant bright colors, and again melancholic and serene impressions. “Marc is a romantic. He inherited that from me. He is totally different than Pierre. Pierre is a real doer, a practical youth. When he was fourteen years old he was already loading stuff in a bus that had seen its better days, which I had bought. When Marjorie was pregnant with Pierre, the doctor already knew it. “He can’t sit still for a second”. Marc and Pierre respect each other tremendously. That is so very important.

André emphasizes on that loving respect and it has helped him and Marjorie to be strong through difficult times.”We have an unbelievable strong bond that has been unbroken through all these years”. That Marjorie does not want to go through life as “the wife of ……” is a choice which is said to be totally independent of their relationship.

“Once I bought something in a store”, she said. And when the saleslady saw the name Rieu on the credit card, she jumped through hoops for me”. I really hate that. “Of course we work very intensely together. Once I told André: “With that trick you can earn money”. We were then talking about a thousand guilders, now we talk about millions of Euros. I have always had my own life, and I cherish that”.

Marjorie Rieu: She studied German and Italian, film science, French literature and writes children’s books. Her newest book “A Dream Comes True ~ Twins Visit André Rieu”. Marjorie, Inspired by an existing set of twins, German girls, who always follow André. André, “Marjorie always takes her work serious. You can find her in the Berlin underground for a few days to study up on the jargon of the youngsters. Furthermore, she has a tremendous sense of humor. When in the evening and I am in bed reading another chapter, there is definitely a box of tissues next to me. Tears of laughter.

André Rieu: Born: October 1, 1949 in Maastricht
Career: André Rieu grows up in a musical family. From the age of 5 he plays the violin and receives lessons from amongst others, Herman Krebbers. After leaving the Limburg Salon Orchestra he establishes the Johann /Strauss Orchestra, with which he gives new life to the waltz music. That seems to be a thunderous success formula ~ Rieu, in the meantime is enjoying worldwide victories.
Private: Married to Marjorie and father of two sons, Pierre and Marc.

André Rieu will perform on 28, 29, 30 August in the Thiaff in Heereveen,
5 and 6 September in the ArenA in Amsterdam and 19 December in the Gelredome.
(The photo of André is taken in the wheatfields right behind his castle.)
Note: This English Translation is copyrighted ©by John and no item in part, or whole of this translation may be copied without express written authorization of the Translator.