André Rieu – from Pizza Paganini to Johann Strauss Orchestra

André Rieu - "Heringe Biete" concerts and  Johann Strauss Orchestra

By Irma de Jong

I remember André Rieu and his “Heringe biete” (Maastricht dialect for “to bite a haring”) Concerts that he used to organise around Carnival, in the beginning of the nineties in Maastricht his home town. At that time I was working occasionally at the ticket office of the Theater aan het Vrijthof, the

residence of the LSO (former Limburg Symphony Orchestra), the orchestra his father conducted for many years.

Rieu and his wife would go around the whole city with such a determination to get the concerts sold out, I will never forget. It was only in 1995 when he made his breakthrough, and three years later, when I had just opened my agency Cicerone Music & Art, that I was commissioned to work on a project to research whether it would be worthwhile to buy a private jet for his orchestra. On that occasion I met him and his staff in the castle where he lives, facing the river Maas.

Andre Rieu, King of Waltz

Today André Rieu’s Johann Strauss Orchestra is the only orchestra in the Netherlands, and maybe even worldwide that is able to maintain itself through the income of ticket sales. His shows are directed by himself from A to Z, without missing any detail.  He is Holland’s best and most successful export product and sells millions of CDs and DVDs. His concerts are always fully sold out.

I know that he is o a ten topic of discussion, especially in the classical music world, however one thing cannot be discussed: his determination and stamina that kept him going to become the best he thought he’d be “King of Waltz”.

Breakthrough with Shostakovich Waltz

Did you know his career only started to fly after he passed his 50th birthday? He had the genius idea to perform the Shostakovich Waltz No. 2 in the break of an important European soccer game.

“We had just finished our first major recording,” André Rieu says. “At the time an insurance company had used the Shostakovich piece for a television commercial and at the last second I decided to put it on the album. I knew that there was a big European game coming up, Ajax against Bayern Munich, so I bought a minute of live TV coverage during the break. Ajax did me a huge favour and scored just before half time. The next week I sold 200,000 CDs.”
(Source: the Guardian)

Pizza Paganini - to be played at the table!

So what about Pizza Paganini?

“There was a time when I felt like putting my violin away for good,” Andrée Rieu says. “I founded my first orchestra in 1978 with just 12 musicians and we played for weddings, restaurants, anywhere we could get a booking, and we were always ignored. Marjorie was studying languages and she was fed up too. So we thought that we might open a pizza restaurant. We had menu cards printed up: the most expensive item was going to be the Pizza Paganini. If you ordered that, I would come out of the kitchen and play at the table – but then I realised that I would have to start practising again.”
Source: the Guardian

So, what's the moral of this story: Never give up! By the way, not a bad idea, this Pizza Paganini......anyone?

Irma de Jong