Always On An Adventure With André
Teun Ramaekers plays the flute in André Rieu's Johann Strauss Orchestra. In 1987 the famous violinist called him and asked him to go on an adventure with him. "Luckily we now receive more respect and appreciation."
Actually Teun has known his 'boss' his entire life. His elementary school was located next to the parental house of the violinist, and so he saw the four years older future world star regularly playing in the street. Years later they learned to know each other much better when they both attended the Liège conservatory and traveled there together. After their educational training, they both went their own way, until Teun's telephone rang in 1987. Rieu called with the question if he would like to join the Johann Strauss Orchestra as flutist since the orchestra was being expanded. "Most advised me against it since the future would be very uncertain, but I was looking forward to go on an adventure," Teun said. "The enthusiasm exploded. The first years were unbelievably fun, we made it seem like a party." Ramaekers quickly realized that Rieu had the 'golden' touch. "All theater performances in the Netherlands and Belgium were sold out, which was not normal. We were just starting out, barely had two lamps for a decor, but yet every place was full. You could see the successes grow. And then, "THE HIT," the Second Waltz, which was the cherry on top of the cake.
Meanwhile Rieu and his large-scale concerts on all the continents has become the most successful artist worldwide. "That André did all this by himself, I find it extremely special." Maybe that could be the reason why André never held back, Ramaekers thinks. "Look at the current cultural climate, lots of curtailments. And Rieu does not want to have anything to do with subsidies, for himself as well as us he has created a totally independent position." But still, there is criticism the flutist acknowledges. Aren't they not playing light classical music seriously enough? Is it so exceptional what Rieu does? "But those you hear less and less. The first years, yes, especially and typically primarily in Limburg. The last few year we now receive more respect and appreciation. And that makes me happy." In the meantime full squares and stadiums alternate. Are you getting used to that?
Concerts like here on the Vrijthof are still very unique. The atmosphere is so very special. No other orchestra can achieve that.
"The first time in the 'Ahoy' (large stadium in Rotterdam, the Netherlands) was amazing, what a crowd. We now frequently perform in such stadiums, so we are getting used to that. And yet, recently we played on the Ceausescu square in Bucharest, Romania, which holds even more people than here on the Vrijthof. Which remains so very special. The atmosphere is so very special. I dare say no other orchestra can manage to do that." Since these two have known each other for such a long time, that does not necessarily mean that they serve as each other's sounding boards. "In the beginning, yes, occasionally, but now André of course has his own family to discuss substantive issues with. When we speak quietly it is primarily about private matters. Music is then not discussed."
Ramaekers who sits diagonally behind Rieu on stage finds him to be a caring individual. "We do not desert each other. Just take an extra aspirin when you don't feel 100%. We keep going unless it is really impossible. Once André sent me home when I had pneumonia. You can really feel bad, but once you are on stage it is like ecstasy."
The musician is now 62 years old, but has no plans to retire his instrument. "The periods of lengthy concert tours is now behind us. Previously we would be gone from home for four or five weeks, now no longer than two. After that we return to Maastricht and rehearse in the studio. This is an exceptional balance. I cannot predict the future, but as long as André keeps going, I will be there with him."
Thanks to Ineke for the article and John's translation