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Cheese-Wiz Andre Rieu

Violinist, composer, and cheese-wiz Andre Rieu in 2009.
Violinist, composer, and cheese-wiz Andre Rieu in 2009.
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Mix Yanni with Celtic Women, Arthur Fiedler, and Lawrence Welk. What do you get? André Rieu. Off-Ramp's classical music critic Craig Curtis previews the waltz-meister's Nokia show.

Craig Curtis: Andre Rieu -- that's R-I-E-U -- is a platinum selling violinist and conductor who’s playing at the Nokia Theater June 19th. And the place’ll be packed. Trust me.

If you don't, just Google 'Andre Rieu tickets.' You’ll get more hits than a search for 'Laker playoff tickets.'

Fifty-something, long hair, a wan smile, Stradivarius violin … you've probably seen Rieu on public TV, where his fundraising specials are money in the bank. His orchestra basically plays nothing but encores: waltzes, popular arias, show tunes and movie themes, all served up in exotic locations with impossibly pretty girls and first class TV production.

Rieu fell in love with the waltz while a conservatory student in his native Holland. He put together a salon orchestra and began playing Strauss and Lehar waltzes for beer money.

By the 80s he'd formed the Johann Strauss Orchestra and Choir, and was being credited—at least by his publicists—with reviving interest in the Viennese waltz … which probably surprised all those Viennese orchestras that make a living playing in three-quarter-time.

It’s easy to criticize Rieu. In Germany and Austria he’s dismissed as a purveyor of Schlagermusik. Schlagermusik is a kind of Euro-pop familiar to anybody who’s seen the Eurovision Song Contest, which has been around since the 50s and is like American Idol on steroids.

And there is a cheese factor with Rieu, but it's high quality Euro cheese. A lot of the music is great, and the playing...well, it's a touring show orchestra – they play it every night and are really good at it. But Rieu’s group is not full of virtuosos like the Vienna Philharmonic. That said, Rieu's orchestra will never turn in a dull, stuffy performance of music that’s meant to be fun. It’s dance music, for crying out loud.

It's show biz. I mean, the guy sometimes travels with his own ice rink. Nobody sleeps through a Rieu performance, which is more than I can say about some classical performances I've been to.

So, go to LA Live to see him on the 19th. Get yourself a couple glasses of cheap Riesling and a cheese tray, settle back, and sway-n-smile with Andre. It won’t hurt.

For Off-Ramp, I’m Craig Curtis.