André Rieu is shaping up to be the next bombastic star of pop classical -- the John Tesh for the new millennium, if you will. Rieu's 1667 Stradivarius leads the Johann Strauss Orchestra, an outfit from the Netherlands whose mission is to make classical waltzes accessible to everyone. This goal will be achieved via untrammeled hair-flinging (usually Rieu's), spontaneous aisle-dancing, and casual attire.
No one dares say who conspired to keep the mottled millions from their Blue Danubes, yet Rieu believes the solemn atmosphere of most classical performances is driving audiences away. To be fair, Rieu's intentions are only to make folks happy; he himself was raised on a strict diet of orchestral favorites until an epiphanous collegiate discovery of Franz Lehár's "Gold and Silver Waltz."
For most people, though, Rieu's existence will merely prompt the question, Who likes this stuff? PBS, for starters: It regularly broadcasts Rieu's sold-out concerts. And then there's this destabilizing statistic: Rieu's Strauss & Co. album has gone platinum eight times over in the Netherlands. That's one in every five residents -- roughly the percentage of people who own Barbra Streisand albums in the States. Wow.