André Rieu, 68, a PBS favorite known as The King of Waltz, conducts the largest private orchestra in the world – his 60-member Johann Strauss Orchestra. The violinist also is one of the most successful touring acts on the planet, having sold 40 million CDs and DVDs. The Dutch-born violinist brings his tour to Sacramento’s Golden 1 Center on Oct. 25. Rieu spoke with The Sacramento Bee recently by phone from his 15th-century castle (yes, castle) in Maastricht, the town in the Netherlands where he was born.
Q: You’re getting ready to start a 12-city U.S. tour, Andre. Do you feel the need to top yourself with each of these big shows?
A. Of course we do. Each time out you’re starting from zero, and you have to build a new tour from scratch or else the audience will never come back. You have to challenge yourself … to go on stage. I travel the world with my orchestra, but each night and each audience is new so you have to make it special for them.
Q. You recently released a new CD, “Shall We Dance.” Are you looking forward to playing that material in front of a live audience?
A. Whether it’s on CD or performing live, the important thing for me is that the fans hear that the music is being played in such a way that it feels 100 percent from the heart.
Q: Are you pleased with the renewed popularity you’ve brought to waltz music around the world?
A. It always annoyed me that the waltz was something that might get played at the end of a program. “Oh, we have five minutes left, let’s play a waltz.” But to play a waltz with a 65-piece orchestra is very, very difficult. You have to all play as one, and it is very difficult to conduct a waltz as well.
Q: When did you know that you had a gift for playing the violin?
A. When I was a child I had to take piano lessons in a gloomy, dark castle, and I hated the teacher. But my first violin teacher was 18 and blonde, and I fell in love with her immediately. So I hated playing piano, but I loved the violin.
Q: So how are things in the castle these days? Still gloomy?
A. No, it’s beautiful … very bright and sunshiny. I had it renovated, and I live there now. You should come see it.
André and the Johann Strauss Orchestra
When: 8 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 25
Where: Golden 1 Center, Sacramento
Tickets: $39-$99, www.andrerieu.com.