‘King of the Waltz’ — and much more

Classical crossover star André Rieu wants to clear up one thing: Even though he’s been nicknamed “King of the Waltz,” the musician doesn’t want audiences to take the title too literally.

Commenting that Americans gave him the moniker, the Dutch violinist/conductor said, ” I like it. I’m proud of it, but, of course, I don’t just play waltzes.”

On Saturday, Rieu and his Johann Srauss Orchestra come to the HP Pavilion in San Jose, where they’ll likely wow fans with their unique brand of show — a classical music performance accompanied by theatrics worthy of a rock concert.

Rieu, 57, admits that many of the technical aspects of his performances, which are broadcast in the United States on public television, are the same as those used by big pop stars.

Amazingly popular in Europe, and with not too shabby reception in North America, Rieu’s concert ticket sales for 2005 rank eighth in the world (U2 is No. 1), according to music industry reports. Rieu’s press materials state that at mid-year 2005, his ticket sales were just below Green Day and above Celine Dion, Josh Groban and Sting.

Speaking on the phone from his home in Holland just two or three hours before getting ready to embark on the American leg of his current tour, Rieu is brilliantly enthusiastic about his work, life and music, which he sees as one and the same.

“Do you believe me when I say I never have a bad day?” he asked, laughing. “I don’t like holidays,” he said.

He and his business partner Marjorie, who also happens to be his wife of more than 30 years, rarely take a day off.

That’s not a bad thing for a person who finds work fun, and whose mission is to make music as pleasurable and meaningful for his audiences as it is for himself.

He’s dissatisfied with classical music as it’s played in stodgy concert halls filled with so-called elite audiences, where the conductor has his back to the patrons.

“There’s not enough enjoyment. Why is it all so serious?” he asked.

Rieu formed his orchestra in 1987, initially with 12 members (now it has 50), because, he said, “I didn’t want to die in the sort of orchestra where everyone speaks of unions and money and not about music.”

For Rieu, the specific repertoire is less important than the experience he shares with his fellow musicians and his audiences.

“For me, there’s only good and bad music. Strauss, Lehar, Shostakovich — they give a lot of joy.” But just because a composer has a famous name, it doesn’t mean every piece of his music is something Rieu wants to play. Bach, for example, wrote music for five harpsichords, to which Rieu says, “No thanks.”

Perhaps the key to his success is that he plays what’s in his heart.

He has no intention of stopping, either. He said, “Every day, I feel better in my skin. I hope I will stay in good health and go on like this, and I hope all the people bring their hearts to the concert.”

Concert

André Rieu and his Johann Strauss Orchestra

Where: HP Pavilion, 525 W. Santa Clara St., San Jose

When: 8 p.m. Saturday

Tickets: $40-$60

Info: (408) 998-8497 or www.ticketmaster.com

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