André Rieu

André Rieu [Special Collectors Edition]

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Belgian orchestra leader André Rieu has parlayed his status as a modern-day Waltz King into something of an international empire. His concerts in his native Belgium and in his nearby Dutch headquarters of Maastricht are huge, multimedia extravaganzas of Continental middlebrow culture. U.S. television viewers know Rieu as a frequent presence on the fundraising shows of the Public Broadcasting Service. And his success has spawned a school of copyright bottom-feeders who have reissued many of his earlier recordings in packages displaying varying degrees of sloppiness. This two-disc set is not an official Rieu enterprise, and it contains no identifying information as to the origins of the recordings except for the names of the three groups: the Johann Strauss Orchestra, the Vienna Strauss Orchestra, and the Maastricht Salon Orchestra (the recordings featuring the last-named group are live). That said, this is among the best of the numerous Rieu reissues on the market. It's competently compiled, and best of all, it offers a look at the music Rieu started out with, the music of Johann Strauss II. As a Strauss interpreter, Rieu has an attractively earnest, almost downhome quality. He is short on rhythmic snap but long on sentiment, and the many pieces prominently featuring his violin bring this element to the fore. The Bel Canto Suite of famous opera tunes (CD 2, track 8) will delight any casual opera lover. Sound quality is just fair, but Rieu fans wanting representation of his early career will enjoy this disc.

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