The renowned musician who has brought a rock/pop attitude to classical music will play May 9 in Portland.

Flamboyance is a term rarely used to describe classical music. Nor is unfettered joy.

Yet, that is the approach taken by André Rieu, who is helping to remove distasteful descriptions such as aloofness, highbrow and stuffiness often felt by non-enthusiasts. His approach has opened the genre to a new generation of fans.

Nothing brings Rieu more joy than classical music. His mission is to share that joy with audiences around the world.

“Music is my breath. Music is in my blood,” Rieu said in a 2002 interview with CNN. “All of my six brothers and children are now in music. My father was a conductor, so music is for me my life.”

Maine audiences will get their first opportunity to see and hear the “King of Waltz” live when Rieu brings his Johann Strauss Orchestra to Portland for a three-hour extravaganza on Mother’s Day at the Cumberland County Civic Center.

A master violinist as well as a grand showman, Rieu has brought a rock/pop attitude to classical music with his concerts that have broken most of the unwritten rules. That approach has sent his record sales to pop levels across Europe. In America, Rieu’s televised concert is a staple during pledge weeks for PBS stations. In fact, his current two-month U.S. tour is called “André Rieu – PBS 10th Anniversary Tour.”

Rieu, 54, was born and still lives in Maastricht, Netherlands. His mother bought him his first violin at age 5. He studied at a couple of top-notch European music academies in his home town and in Brussels until his mid-20s and joined the Limburg Symphony in 1978.

While he knew the music was beautiful and that the audience and musicians enjoyed it, he rarely saw that emotion of joy at live performances. Everyone seemed so serious.

The showman in Rieu sent him in the direction of Austrian composer Johann Strauss, who created a festive environment with his waltzes. By utilizing lighting and amplifying techniques developed for rock shows, creating an atmosphere of joy on stage and providing a touch of comedic relief, Rieu soon had his audiences clapping and dancing in the aisles.

He formed the Johann Strauss Orchestra is 1987. They have released more than 30 albums since their debut disc in 1994.

To keep his shows warm and accessible, Rieu blends an array of classical gems like “The Blue Danube” and compositions by Mozart, Chopin and Shostakovich with more familiar tunes such as “Moon River,” “Amazing Grace” and “Stars and Stripes Forever.”

Rieu’s pride and joy is his million-dollar violin. According to Rieu, the instrument was just the second violin built by Stradivarius. He built it at age 23.

“He was still in love, he was just married, and you can hear it,” said Rieu.

His latest album, the 25th anniversary double-CD “Romantic Paradise,” has been nominated for the celebrated Rose d’Or international award.


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