Anna’s War on Everything: Part 1 – Andre Rieu

12 Jan

A new year, another essay due, a new chance to fill these pages with meaningless tripe sensible and insightful commentary on the world we live in. Rejoice!

In an effort to polarize my own views more for your general enjoyment and entertainment, I’m inventing a new section. It is: My War on Everything (pace Chaser!) Basically I am going to declare war on a thing, behaviour, concept, or indeed person every week and then you can all vehemently and enthusiastically agree with me. Or disagree. (That, I’d like to see.)

[Those of you who know me as a pacifist, I remain committed to non-violence. My  invasions are those of ideas, my sword the mighty keystroke, my escalation strategies limited to CAPS and bold font. I will not deliberately, personally or publicly harass, vilify or embarrass you on the internet if you disagree with me.]

Moving swiftly along!

I have a real scorcher lined up for this inaugural week, someone who in fact deserves to be deliberately, personally and publicly harassed whenever the opportunity presents itself (peacefully of course…)

Presenting – Mr André Rieu. Full name: a tremendously pompous 5 words –

André Léon Marie Nicolas Rieu.

Rieu is a trillionaire Dutch violinist and conductor, who leads his Johann Strauss Orchestra around the world, bringing timeless arrangements like “Jingle Bells” to cashed-up over-50s.  I’m not only declaring war on Rieu because of his SERIOUSLY DISCONCERTING facial expressions. Or the fact that the women in his orchestra are dolled up in sparkly corsets and crinoline-skirts which undermines their ability to be taken seriously as musicians and people (IMHO) perhaps even more so than not including them in the orchestra at all! I’m not even going to trash him just because he has stolen top-trained musicians from some of the best classical companies in the world just by paying them far, FAR more than the cash-starved (thank you, austerity measures) orchestras of repute can pay.

Common defenders of Rieu tend to make statements like:

“Just because he can’t play violin perfectly enough to satisfy your fussy little ears, who the hell cares. He makes some people happy, makes them dance and the daft old bugger is trying to bring back some great songs, in an energetic and sugary way. Better than most of the shit they are playing on the radio these days.” (Thank you Paul, commenter on ‘Andre Rieu, And Why He Must be Stopped’ over on The Deadbeat).

That is why I declare war on him. I love classical music, in its multifarious forms. I would have been prepared to give Rieu the time of day if I felt he expressed even a modicum of respect for the intelligence of his audience. But no, instead he gives us Classical Music for Idiots. The Jell-O of classical music. Classic-lite, all dusted with sparkles and amplifiers and fairylights. The result is a hysterical, tasteless, amorphous mind-fuck of maniacally smiling ‘musicians’ crushing hour after hour of exquisite music into nothing more than sonic cornflakes. Topped with sugar.


Some people say Rieu should be supported because he is introducing classical music to people who otherwise wouldn’t listen to any. Well, I disagree. Because you see he isn’t introducing “classical music” at all! He’s offering bread and circuses while the genuine, talented and hard-working musicians around the world flail for the attention, respect and earnings they deserve. Rieu doesn’t want his audience to engage critically with a piece, a composer, a style or a rendering. He wants us high on life, comatose on his musical opium, ready to spend $65 on a commemorative t-shirt. I have nothing against POPULARITY. Popularity is a nicely democratic phenomenon. But I feel entitled to criticise this pastiche of an orchestra. There is more originality and genuine sentiment in Lady’s “Yankin” than in ninety minutes of Rieu.

I know this post makes me sound like a heinous snob. (I can deal with that, but it’s not an ideal outcome). What I’d like to suggest is that if you feel classical music is a bit intimidating, which it can be, then by all means buy a “100 Greatest Classical Hits” album. Nobody is asking you to listen to the Ring Cycle before you’re entitled to an opinion on classical music. Stick to Bach and Strauss if that’s your cuppa. But please, do not spend money on André Rieu. You wouldn’t pay Rolex prices for a Balinese fake, so why let yourself be conned when it comes to classical music?

Over and out.


3 Responses to “Anna’s War on Everything: Part 1 – Andre Rieu”

  1. Andreas Pillichshammer January 12, 2013 at 10:24 pm #

    Anna, du hast wohl einen epileptischen Anfall bekommen. Der ist super! Und die Muatta hat ihn auch gemocht. Also wirklich, du g´heast eingspert!!
    Dein Vater

    • annakoesti January 12, 2013 at 11:31 pm #

      Na, der oesterreichische Snobbismus eben – i kann ma ned helfen!

  2. Helen Postma January 13, 2013 at 4:25 am #

    Good thing my mother is dead AK…she would not have agreed with you at all!!!!!!

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