Born in Maastricht, the Netherlands, in 1949, André Léon Marie Nicolas Rieu came from a suitably musical family. His father was the conductor of the Limburg Symphony Orchestra and a conductor of the Leipzig Opera, and most of André's brothers and sisters are professional musicians. The music that filled the household was mostly classical; symphonies, chamber works, and operas provided the major fare. At age five, Rieu began studying violin. Later, he trained at the Conservatorium Maastricht from 1968 to 1973 and at the Music Academy in Brussels from 1974 to 1977, ultimately earning his "Premier Prix" degree from the Royal Conservatory of Brussels. It was during Rieu's conservatory training that an event occurred that changed the direction of his life and career. He took a job to play a date in a salon ensemble, which entailed presenting dance and light music as it might have been heard in the palmy days before World War I. As part of that performance, he played Franz Lehár's Gold and Silver Waltz. As Rieu became involved in projecting Gold and Silver to the listeners, he found himself captivated by its lilt and decided he wanted to continue making this kind of music. He formed the Maastricht Salon Orchestra in 1978, a group that survived, with some personnel changes, until 1987. Their instrumentation generally consisted of solo violin with violin, cello, double bass, and piano, sometimes with members doubling on trumpet and glockenspiel. The ensemble made a number of recordings, first for Da Capo and then Philips. Rieu then formed the Johann Strauss Orchestra, which gave its first concert in January 1988. Amidst a steady climb toward becoming one of the world's most successful touring acts, he released his first album with the orchestra, From Holland with Love, in 1994. It remained at the number one spot in the Netherlands for a full year. He became a mainstay of PBS fundraising specials in the U.S. shortly thereafter, and 1997's The Vienna I Love (Philips) reached number three on the Billboard classical albums chart. The Christmas I Love concert aired on PBS that November, and he toured North America for the first time. André Rieu in Concert saw release in 1998. He finished the decade with a steady stream of regionally targeted and international collections that included Great Waltzes: On the Beautiful Blue Danube (1998) and Romantic Moments (1999).
Though Rieu had composed music for most of his life, 2000's La Vie Est Belle was his first LP to include an original waltz composed by André and his brother, Jean-Philippe Rieu. Celebrating his 25 years as a performer, the double album Romantic Paradise was issued in 2003, with André Rieu at the Movies, Christmas with André Rieu, and the live recording The Flying Dutchman all arriving the following year. The latter captured a concert before 18,000 fans at a stadium in Kerkrade. Other live albums included Live in Tuscany, also released in 2004, New Year's in Vienna (2005), and Live in Vienna (2008). In the meantime, 2007's The 100 Most Beautiful Melodies went to number two in Australia, only to be bettered on the ARIA albums chart by Waltzing Matilda in 2008.
Rieu turned 60 in 2009, a year that saw him tour Europe, North American, and Australia. That year's You'll Never Walk Alone returned him to the number two spot in Australia. In December, he took part in the Royal Variety Performance for Queen Elizabeth II alongside Lady Gaga, Michael Bublé, and Mika. Early the next year, Forever Vienna went to number two in the U.K. Diverse releases from 2010 included You Raise Me Up: Songs for Mum, My African Dream, and the U.K. Top Five hit Moonlight Serenade. When Rieu gave a performance of the Sir Anthony Hopkins-penned waltz And the Waltz Goes On from his U.K. number one album of the same name, Hopkins and his wife flew to Maastricht to attend. The next year's Home for the Holidays landed on the top half of the Billboard 200, and his 2013 release Music of the Night reached the Top Five in the U.K. That year, Trini Lopez joined him on-stage at one of his Maastricht concerts, and Sky Arts aired the ten-part documentary André Rieu: Welcome to My World, which followed him behind the scenes on tour. Rieu performed in Taiwan and China for the first time in 2014, a year that also offered the February release Love Letters. 2015's Roman Holiday hit number eight in the U.K., while the next year's Falling in Love reached number seven. Also in 2016, in honor of Queen Elizabeth II's 90th birthday, Rieu co-composed a waltz with Frank Steijns titled The Windsor Waltz. He reached the U.K. Top Ten again with 2017's Amore as he celebrated 30 years with the Johann Strauss Orchestra. The concert video The Magic of Maastricht: 30 Years was issued late in the year.
A sequel to the 1999 release, Romantic Moments II arrived in 2018. Happy Days followed in November 2019, a month after Rieu turned 70 with a concert in Maastricht.