Often referred to as the King of Waltz, Andre Rieu’s favourite musical genre has a long and intriguing history. According to many historians, the waltz began life as a humble country dance that grew out of Tyrolean folk music and the dance took its name from the German verb, ‘walzen,’ meaning to turn. Its origins can be traced back to Austria and the ballrooms of Vienna and, by the end of the 18th century, the waltz was the latest dance craze among Europe’s young and wealthy.
It wasn’t long before the genre courted controversy; the waltz was noticeably more tactile than traditional choreography, such as the minuet, as dancers had their arms placed around each other. In 1833 a British manual of good manners recommended that only married women should dance the waltz, as they deemed it too immoral for the unwed.
Nevertheless, the rapidly growing popularity of the waltz inspired composers such as Johann Strauss to turn their attention to the style. Strauss would go on to create some of the most well known Viennese waltzes of his day, including the iconic Blue Danube, and many his compositions are still perforned by Andre Rieu and his Johann Strauss Orchestra. The popularity of the waltz lead to the establishment of the public dance hall, where visitors could enjoy the music and dance, as well as dine and socialise. The waltz was further promoted when Tchaikovsky composed several to be included in his now iconic ballets Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker. By the mid 19th century, the waltz had garnered a significant following across the Atlantic and American versions of the dance were also created.
However, by the early 20th century and the onset of the First World War, the waltz had started to fall out of favour on account of its Germanic origins. Yet over half a century later, Andre Rieu would discover the powers of the waltz for the first time. Strauss’s ‘The Blue Danube’ was the first waltz that the violinist ever heard, aged five years old, at one of his father’s concerts. Rieu explains that as the piece was played, ‘Suddenly the atmosphere changed. Everyone in the audience started to smile. I saw the joy on people’s faces.’ Fast forward several decades and Andre Rieu invites every audience at his concerts to join in with the orchestra by dancing. Today, Andre Rieu is largely credited with the revival of waltz music and introducing the genre to new generations of music lovers.Explaining the wide appeal of the waltz, he says that it lies partly in the fact that ‘you will find every sentiment in a waltz. Happiness, joy, melancholy, and love.’