Hamming to Strauss

A few years ago, I saw a clip of violinist André Rieu and the Johann Strauss Orchestra premiering a waltz written by Sir Anthony Hopkins. Hopkins was in the audience and heard his waltz being played, in public, for the first time. It was lovely to watch. I don’t know enough about music to say whether it’s good, bad or indifferent. And I certainly don’t know enough about music to debate whether, as some YouTube comments suggest, Hopkins might have borrowed a bar or two from elsewhere. But I know I liked it.

Till then, I’d never heard of André Rieu, who along with his orchestra, rose to fame some 20 years ago when an unknown waltz on their recently released CD took Holland by storm and has become Holland’s unofficial second national anthem – or so he told us last week when he was in Budapest. He showed us a video of himself conducting football fans at the Olympic Stadium in Amsterdam back in 2009 as they ‘sang’ the waltz.

I quite like my waltzes. I quite like classical music, even if I couldn’t tell Chopin from Bartok Bela. I’m not so keen, though, when it’s all very highbrow and everyone is taking it really seriously. Little did I know that Rieu seems to think the same. In almost pantomime fashion, some 50 or so musicians waltzed through the audience up to the stage in the half-full Papp Lázsló Stadium on Wednesday night, the ladies in their multicoloured ballgowns, the gents in their dickey-bows and tails. It looked a little like a macaroon and penguin fest.

The Platin Tenors (one of whom is Hungarian) were bloody amazing. Their version of Puccini’s Nessun Dorna was goosebumpingly great. With over ten nationalities on stage, this truly international orchestra is undeniably talented. And they all seemed to be having great craic. It was quite surreal. Serious music, with seriously talented musicians who were hamming about like Curly, Dick, and Moe.

You know that solemn atmosphere you find in the concert hall with classical music, and how it intimidates most people and keeps them away? With us, it is simply not there.

Rieu has a set piece. I’d wager that all his concerts are pretty much the same. But it was a first for me. The only other time I’d seen him was the brief YouTube clip of the Hopkins waltz. It seemed as if everyone else in the audience was on more familiar terms. Flags were flying, pictures of the man himself floated on banners through the air. And the usually timid audience I’ve come to expect in Budapest was waltzing in the aisles. Grannies and grandkids – the entire age spectrum was having a ball.

I’ve never before seen a musician who uses a translator. Rieu did. And even the banter between the two of them was comical. He spoke in English and she translated to Hungarian, never missing a beat. He does something weird with his eyes that is strangely amusing and his facial expressions hover somewhere between weird and zany. His portrait gallery on Google Images gives some indication of the many faces of the man who truly is doing his damnedest to make classical music more accessible without sacrificing his musical standards.

The hamming irritated me a little at first, but as the evening went on, and I began to realise that they all were genuinely having a blast on stage, I bought into it and thoroughly enjoyed the performance – because it was a performance. I never thought I’d see the day when I’d be encouraged to sing along to classical music. Brilliant.

Havasi Balázs, the pianist I was mad about a few years back, does the same. And you know, for those of us who grew up outside the classics and the salons, it’s lovely to see the high brows plucked a little.

Worth a night out, if he happens to be in your neighbourhood.

Talk to me...

%d bloggers like this:

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information on cookies and GDPR

Cookies and GDPR Compliance

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.

General Data Protection Regulation

If you have voluntarily submitted your email address so that you can receive notifications of new posts, please be assured that I don't use your address for anything other than to do just that - and that's done automatically. I might use your address, if I knew how to, but I don't.

This blog does not make money, it does not carry sponsored content, it has no ads for which I receive any form of payment. If I review a place or a restaurant or a book, I don't receive any compensation from anyone. I wish I did, but that would require marketing myself and life is too short. If something changes, I will be sure to let you know.

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the unsubscribe or manage subscription links at the bottom of every email you receive. When you comment on a blog post, Google Analytics tracks where you're posting from. This is stored and I can check my stats to see how many clicks I had today, where people clicked from, and what they clicked on. That's it. Nothing more.

I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive, particularly to other commenters. If you want to have one of your comments deleted, the please get in touch with me at: mary@irjjol.com. I'm all for the right to be forgotten so will happily oblige.

So, in a nutshell, if you give me your email address voluntarily to subscribe to new posts or if you opt to subscribe to new comments, then you email is just used for this. Nothing else. Promise.