What I know about women

Canberra Times, Mother's Day 2013.

Canberra Times (Australia), article on Mother's Day (May) 2013.

André Rieu
Musician, married, 63.

All boys want to be like their father, but I think my mother had more to do with making me like him – in a musical sense – than he did, because (as a renowned conductor with the Limburg Symphony Orchestra) he was always on the road. I don't remember my father doing a lot with me, like practising or giving advice.

It was my mother who gave me a violin. She was the one who always said, "Hey, hey, you are playing outside, come inside and practise." She was rather severe.

I am completely different to my mother. Of course, she helped to shape me, but perhaps not in the way she would have liked. I am who I am. She is very religious, my father was very religious, but I am not any more. I think we should take our own responsibility and try to make heaven now, not when we are dead.

She was very strict and very cold – and I am completely the opposite. She was afraid to show her feelings. She always said to me, "André, you don't have to look people in the eyes like you do." But I like to do that. That's why I have my face to the audience, unlike other conductors. I want to have this contact with people. It's how you connect. Everything goes through the eyes.

My mother was afraid to look people in the eyes because then your feelings come. She is 96 now (2013), still driving ... very independent and strong-willed. We have contact, but not much.

I grew up with three sisters and two brothers, in Maastricht, the Netherlands, but, honestly, I was a dreamer. Of course I remember them, but I was not very close to them. It is very sad.

My oldest sister, Cilia, became mentally ill at the age of 18. She's still alive. I still think she could have had a normal life, had things happened in another way: let's say, had she had other parents. My second sister, Teresia, was a beautiful harpist. Sadly, she is ill now, too. My youngest sister, Gaby, although she is 10 years younger than me, I was very close to her. In fact, with our parents being away so much, I raised her, I changed her diapers, so I was practically her father.

Having three sisters didn't help me with girls – oh no, not at all! Speaking of such things in my home was impossible.

My wife Marjorie was 13 and I was 11 when we first met. She was in Teresia's class. There was a (Christmas) party in my home with her whole class and I remember one girl with a lot of curls in her hair. That was Marjorie. Then we met later on and, "Boom!" She's honest and nice and beautiful and I knew immediately that she would be my wife.

We work together now, something I dreamed of doing with a wife when I was a small boy - I don't know why - but we also have periods of separation when I am on tour. I think it's important for a marriage that you can be separated.

I see marriage as like an open hand. You could go out of the hand but you don't, because you like to be in the hand. When you really are fixed together and dare not open the hand, then it's not a marriage.

I often tell Marjorie, "Without you, I would be in the gutter." She says, "No, you would have met another girl," but I am serious. She helped me to be myself and to believe in myself and look people in the eyes. I think women have a gift for that. It's why I love to work with women - half my orchestra is female, half the people in my office. Women can show their feelings much more easily than men and that appeals to me.

Why are many women taken with me? I really don't know. A University of Maastricht professor called me a few weeks ago and she wants to scientifically study this exact question. I am very curious about the answer and I will call you back when she finishes her studies. (Laughs). I think it could be because I have a lot of woman in me. I show myself completely on stage. When I feel nervous, I appear nervous; when I feel glad, I appear glad; when I feel emotional, I appear emotional. Women like that. So I don't only show that I am having fun, but that I am emotional. That's when people are going to like you: "Oh my god, he's a normal human being."

In everyone there is a male part and a female part. I think in male composers the female part is the part that composes the music - yes, the soul of the music. That's the answer to why some men are artists and others are not. It's the female side of them that's driven them to an artistic life.