In Defence of Andre Rieu

Poor Andre Rieu. Nobody (important) loves him. But he’s popular. And I bet he’s laughing. All the way to the bank. I have listened to a You Tube clip of his orchestra performing “Don’t Cry for me Argentina”, a personal favourite. It was sung by (as I recall) his son’s fiancée but for me it was a very poor performance, and presumably neither Andrew Lloyd Webber nor Julie Covington was there because the clip would have included a homicide. By rights singer and orchestra should have been booed off the stage. But they weren’t. To the contrary their reception was enthusiastic.

Andre Rieu is popular with a huge segment of the public, and I put his success down to his choice of music. Music and music extracts with simple melodies that the “common man” can relate to. Strauss waltzes and show tunes, which are easy to hum in the shower. There is also much-loved classical music in there. He plays what people like to hear. (Excluding me, but that’s just one person’s opinion.)

But then what about the awful performance? One needs to be careful here. In my experience everyone listens differently. I have attended concerts where I have wanted to crawl under the seat with embarrassment. Out of synchronicity is my pet hate, but also lack of musicality; hey, you know what I mean! Then I hear the enthusiastic applause and I think to myself, “Weren’t you listening?” And sometimes I have been enthusiastic where others have been a lot less so. In other words how we hear music is very personal and my unbearable mistake is someone else’s beautiful melody.

I have said it before and I reiterate: none of us can be precious about our musical taste. Those of us for whom music is a way of life should remember: some of those people who enjoy Andre Rieu may one day decide to be more adventurous and try a proper orchestra playing some Mozart or Beethoven. Then maybe Sibelius or even Shostakovich. I well remember my partner’s reaction to a live performance of Berlioz’s Symphonie Fantastique. Almost an hour of completely unknown, non-stop classical music! Live classical music was still quite a new experience for her, she was by herself that night and she almost opted out. That piece of music is still one of her favourites and our musical journey has now extended to include everything from Wagner’s Ring Cycle through to chamber music, opera, choral – you name it!

Appreciation of classical music is for most people a journey. We are not born Wagner fans. Our tastes develop over time, and that development could start with a commercial for Old Spice or attending a Symphony in the Park concert or heading off to an Andre Rieu concert.

I would like to make the case for accepting Andre Rieu and his ilk as yet another fragment in the mosaic that is music.

Save the battles for the real enemies of music: fashion, intolerance and elitism.

Published in: on February 9, 2010 at 9:19 am  Comments (2)