Violinist Andre Rieu has Abba Classics Covered
CONDUCTOR and violin superstar Andre Rieu rates The Blue Danube as his favourite piece of music, but Johann Strauss isn't his only inspiration.
The 64-year-old Dutchman has turned his back on classical music for his latest venture, paying tribute instead to the classic songs of 1970s pop phenomenon ABBA.
"Who is not an ABBA fan?" Rieu asked in Sydney on the eve of his And the Waltz Goes On Australian tour, which begins in Brisbane today.
The prolific musician is releasing two albums next month, one of which, Andre Rieu Celebrates ABBA, features his orchestral interpretations of ABBA hits including Dancing Queen, Mamma Mia and Thank You for the Music.
"It's such fantastic music," he said. "It's so unique. You cannot copy ABBA. All I could do was make my version of it. I can say I'm satisfied with the result."
Rieu is celebrating 25 years with his Johann Strauss Orchestra, which has helped popularise the work of Strauss and other classical composers all across the world. He also has turned himself into a global industry, releasing several DVDs and albums each year.
He admits to being a workaholic and says he has no plans to stop recording and performing. He'd like to be on stage when he's 120.
"Being busy is not bad," he said. "I like being busy. I like to be in control of everything and for that you have to work hard. That's my life."
Rieu has a huge following, not least in Australia, but he divides opinion over his treatment of the classics. His response to that is to paraphrase Finnish composer Jean Sibelius's put-down of detractors: "When did you ever see a statue of a critic?"
Rieu says he does his job "with honesty, with education and everything that I am. I know that I'm not lying. I try to have fun on stage and involve the audience. I like to play for the audience, to be with them. That's what I do. What's bad about that?"
The conductor's compulsive work rate has a downside. Twice in the past few years he has had to cancel performances because of illness.
Last year, he took on a personal trainer and now works out on a regular basis to keep fit.
After his Brisbane performance tonight, the And the Waltz Goes On tour travels to Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth.