André Rieu, the accomplished Dutch violinist known for his extravagant, unstuffy performances of classical waltzes, may be the most popular musician you've never heard of. With millions of albums sold and ticket sales that rival those of Celine Dion and Lady Gaga, he should be a household name but, be honest, have you heard of him?
If not, you will soon. The 63-year-old musician, who calls Michael Jackson his idol, is now promoting his new CD and DVD, Home for the Holidays, and he plans a U.S. tour in the new year.
Rieu's oxymoronic status may have something to do with the fact that his appeal is not of the universal sort: Though members of his audience often weep with joy during his musical spectaculars, there are people who would prefer dental surgery to a concert that features bouncy waltzes and perky violinists in Disneyesque ball gowns. There's actually a Facebook group called "I want to punch Andre Rieu in the face."
Never mind that. He's unabashed about how good he believes his Home for the Holidays DVD is, featuring an ever-smiling, handsome Rieu and his orchestra performing songs such as "Jingle Bells" and "Winter Wonderland." His home, a gorgeous castle in the Netherlands, is a lushly decorated and snowy backdrop (thanks to a slew of snow machines, the filming was in September). He admits that the hot-weather production "was very uncomfortable — everybody was in their winter clothes. But everyone knew it would be a fantastic project, and I think I'm right that it was."
Rieu takes his status as the fun classical maestro very seriously. When asked what U.S. fans will experience on his upcoming tour, he responds, soberly, "People can expect a fantastic night that they will never forget in their whole life. [At] my concerts, the people are so enthusiastic that they dance and they cry and they love. That is the difference between my concerts and normal classical concerts, [where the musicians are] dressed in black with angry faces."
He is thrilled to note that he's just reached the British pop charts at No. 2, after the singer Robbie Williams, for his new album Magic of the Movies. And other countries have lapped him up as well, including Australia and Japan, where, Rieu notes, "the audience is crazy, they love my music."
Rieu is hoping his record company's marketing muscle will help him reach deeper into the United States. He'll be touring in California, Arizona and Florida this March.
For the upcoming holidays, Rieu says he'll be in his Maastricht castle with his family, including his wife, Marjorie, and son Pierre, who has 3-year-old twin daughters — no matter what. "People can give me $10 million to give concerts all over the world, but I will not do it. I'll be at home for the holidays."