When I told people I was interviewing André Rieu, without fail their reply was “my mum LOVES him”, or “my grandad is a huge fan”, or simply “his shows are amazing”.
It seems everyone knows somebody who has been touched by the Dutch violinist/conductor’s music and personality and, upon meeting him, it’s easy to see why.
He is a striking presence, tall with that distinctive shock of curls, which he told me he has always had, joking: “I was born like that – first there was a metre of hair and then I came out!”
His voice is warm and soothing, and I could have spoken to him for hours as he is just, quite frankly, a lovely, lovely man. And what a talent.
André first picked up a violin when he was five years old, attending lessons with a “beautiful blonde” teacher. He adored her and subsequently adored playing the violin.
Years later, that musical grounding would see him form the Johan Strauss Orchestra – a group of passionate musicians who tour the world performing classical music to sell-out crowds.
The Orchestra will take to the stage in Aberdeen’s P&J Live arena on Thursday, May 25, before heading to Glasgow’s OVO Hydro on the 26th and 27th of the month.
“It’s fantastic to be back in Scotland. I’m travelling the world with my own orchestra and the Scottish people are the best audience in the world.”
As an entertainment journalist, I’d be rich if I had a pound every time a band or musician told me that, but I have to say, they do all seem to be genuine and André was no different, insisting: “No, it’s really true. They are really so hungry.”
Normally in my interview prep, I look at the name of the tour and research the theme of the show in order to discuss it, but when trying to do this for André, I hit a brick wall. All I could find was the dates he was coming.
André explained: “The most beautiful thing is I never say what I’m going to play. Nobody knows. It’s always a surprise.
“They only know that when you go to André and his orchestra, you are going to have an evening you will never forget.”
I have yet to go to one of André’s shows, but I know that to be the case.
Watching footage from previous performances, many members of the audience are in tears as Andre leads the orchestra in an array of beautiful pieces.
So how does he choose what to perform?
“Simple Laura, I play music that touches my heart.”
André is a passionate man – passionate about music, the ‘second family’ he has in his orchestra and, of course, his own family, married to his beloved wife Marjorie for 48 years.
I asked what the secret was to their longevity, and he said: “We decide everything together and luckily we always think in the same way.
“Apart from programmes on television, I love action films (to which he performed a rather convincing shooting sound) and she loves romantic movies.”
The pair have only ever argued once and that was when they went for dance lessons to try and learn how to waltz.
Ironically for the man dubbed “the king of the waltz”, he said: “I thought I was good, and she said ‘you are not!’.”
Now, he leaves the waltzing up to the audience who often take to their feet during his shows, particularly when he performs the Blue Danube.
“You see the whole audience start to move and smile. They stand up and dance. I don’t tell them to do it, they simply do it because the music is so beautiful.”
André is hugely successful and has been playing classical concerts all his life, but he never ever gets complacent when it comes to performing.
“I think every night again you start from zero, and you have to give them everything you have.
“You must always think ‘this is the most important concert in my life’.”
The 73-year-old also never takes the reaction from the audience and his millions of fans for granted.
“I get mail and letters every day. Every day Marjorie opens them and says ‘ok, read these’ and the tears are running over my cheeks because it’s so moving when you read them. What my music does to people? it’s incredible.”
Watch the full interview with André Rieu on What’s on Scotland on STV and the STV Player at 7pm on Friday, March 24.