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Conductor and violinist André Rieu waltzes into town as a bonafide pop star

Andre Rieu, shown performing in Amsterdam in 2019, comes to TD Garden on Sept. 19.Peter Dejong/Associated Press

The Waltz King is coming to Boston. At least that’s the moniker the Dutch violinist and conductor André Rieu used in the late-1980s when he began touring Europe and, a decade later, North America, with his Johann Strauss Orchestra.

Those were the days when Rieu — who resides in a castle with his wife, Marjorie, in his hometown of Maastricht in the Netherlands — would fill his programs with the music of Strauss. Waltzes, lots of waltzes. Hence, that nickname.

But over the years, Rieu loosened up the design and content of his shows. The number of musicians grew, a chorus was added, as were guest performers. Black outfits gave way to colorful clothing; huge sets appeared behind them. And the music changed. Rieu, who’d been studying violin since he was 5, stuck with his Strauss waltzes, but he complemented them with music by other composers of “light classical” repertoire, and he began including selections of contemporary tunes — “My Way,” “You Raise Me Up,” “When I’m Sixty-Four.”

He held his Stradivarius violin in one hand, conducted — baton-less — with the other, and, his long hair flowing, danced around the stage, often facing the audience rather than the orchestra. Concerts sold out; albums, CDs and, later, DVDs, flew off the shelves; PBS started airing Rieu performances as fundraisers. He was no longer just the Waltz King, he was a pop star.


Rieu, 73, who was putting the final touches on the album “Jewels of Romance,” spoke by Zoom from his castle ahead of his show Sept. 19 at TD Garden.

Q. You grew up in a musical home, and when you were 5, your mother decided that you would play the violin. Do you have any idea why she chose that instrument?

A. She looked at my hands and said, “I think you have good hands for the violin.” Now, my father was a conductor, and I also tried the trumpet and the oboe and the piano. I didn’t like my piano teacher. But my violin teacher was an 18-year-old blond girl, and that helped a lot because I fell in love with her. So, I guess I studied my violin for her.


Q. I read in a long-ago interview that you were always the black sheep of your family. What did you mean by that?

A. I was always looking at life on the bright side. I try to have fun in life. In the old days, my mother was against all of this, my attitude of seeing life like that. I didn’t have a very nice childhood because of that. But afterwards, when I met my wife, Marjorie, we went in therapy together, and now I can see life as I want to.

Q. You’ve often credited Marjorie with expanding your musical horizons beyond just classical by playing her father’s collection of jazz records for you. Did she also turn you on to the pop music that now makes up part of your shows?

A. No, that I did for myself. When I was still at school, I had a little secret radio. And I listened to Bob Dylan and the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. But I kept it very soft so my parents couldn’t hear it [laughs].

Q. You father was a very busy conductor, and you are doing more and more conducting now. Did you pick up any conducting tips from him?


A. I don’t think so. He was a dictator to the orchestra, and I don’t want to be a dictator. I’m a completely different sort of conductor.

Q. What sort of conductor are you?

A. I think a good conductor should lift up his orchestra, and make them play better than they think they can play.

Q. When you were in your 20s, you were a violinist in an orchestra. What made you strike out on your own?

A. Oh, all my colleagues were members of a union. They were always saying, “It’s too cold, it’s too hot, when is the next holiday?” I didn’t like that at all. My first group was the Maastricht Salon Orchestra. There were only five members. We played classical music at dinners and wedding parties and elderly homes. And that was the time when I learned enormously about interaction with the audience.

Q. Eleven years later you started the Johann Strauss Orchestra. What were the differences between the two groups?

A. With the salon orchestra, we couldn’t play Strauss, because Strauss doesn’t sound right with only five people. Our ear wants a bigger orchestra. The first one had 14 members.

Q. It’s been said that you like audiences to be surprised by what’s on your programs.

A. Exactly, and I won’t tell you if you ask [laughs].

Q. Have there been any pieces that you’ve played almost every time?


A. Oh yes. “The Blue Danube,” of course. The most beautiful waltz by Johann Strauss. And the “Radetzky March” by Strauss. We always play those.

Q. When you reach a certain degree of success, you can afford nice things. You live in a castle, you have your own recording studio, you have your butterfly house, and you play a Stradivarius. How does one go out and purchase a Stradivarius?

A. It’s difficult. First, you have to have a contact, then it’s, “Do they want to sell me a Stradivarius?” — because there are only 400 real Stradivarius violins in the world. I had my first one 20 years ago. It was a big moment! Then I sold it and I had another one. Right now I’m dreaming of a Guarneri — a very beautiful violin I saw and heard. So, it’s a constant thing.

Q. If you’re home alone and you pick up your violin to play, is there any one composer or piece that you turn to?

A. From the beginning, I have played and improvised melodies. I remember I used to do that when I was young and living at home. My mother would scream, “André, you have to play your scales!” Of course she was right. But I was always improvising.

Q. You’ve been doing this for a long time, and you seem to be a very happy man. Was there a moment when you said to yourself, “I have achieved my dream”?


A. I think it was a growing thing, and it’s still a growing thing. I’m living my dream, traveling the world with my own orchestra. Of course, every day there are little things to solve, little problems, things to make better. You have to take care that the dream is a good dream.

Interview has been edited and condensed. Ed Symkus can be reached at


At TD Garden. Sept. 19 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets from $104.50.