Born in 1948 in Riga, Latvia, Mischa Maisky started studying the cello at the age of eight. An immensely talented student, he entered the Riga Conservatory. In 1965 he moved to Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) and the same year he not only won ‘the Soviet Union’s national cello competition’, but also had an acclaimed debut with the Leningrad Philharmonic. In 1966, Maisky won a prize at ‘the International Tchaikovsky Competition’ in Moscow. One of the jurors for the Tchaikovsky Competition was the great cellist Mstislav Rostropovich, who invited Maisky to study with him at the Moscow Conservatory. Maisky developed rapidly under Rostropovich’s tutelage, launching a concert career in the Soviet Union.
In 1972, Maisky left for Jerusalem. Zubin Mehta, conductor of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, subsequently engaged Maisky to participate in the orchestra’s upcoming American tour. The following year, Maisky won ‘the Gaspar Cassadó International Cello Competition’ in Florence and made his Carnegie Hall debut with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra conducted by William Steinberg. After the concert, an anonymous fan gave Maisky an instrument made by the eighteenth century Venetian master Domenico Montagnana. Maisky has played that cello ever since.
Despite his extraordinary success as a performing artist, Maisky still felt the need to study with a more experienced musician. Consequently, in 1974, he approached the celebrated Russian cellist Gregor Piatigorsky, who lived in Los Angeles, and became Piatigorsky’s last student. Maisky is thus the only cellist to have studied with both Rostropovich and Piatigorsky.
Maisky made his London debut in 1976 in a series of orchestral concerts, beginning with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. His London recital debut was in 1977. Since then Mischa Maisky has been enthusiastically received in London, Paris, Berlin, Vienna, New York and Tokyo along with the rest of the major musical centres of the world.
Following his recording of the Brahms Double Concerto with Gidon Kremer and the Vienna Philharmonic under Leonard Bernstein, in 1985 Mischa Maisky became exclusive to Deutsche Grammophon, winning much acclaim, a ‘Diapason d’Or’ in 1992 and three ‘Tokyo Academy Awards’ for his many recordings which include: two recordings of the Bach solo cello suites (Grand Prix du Disque), sonatas by Bach and Beethoven with Martha Argerich, Shostakovich and Tchaikovsky Trios with Gidon Kremer and Martha Argerich, and four discs of encore favourites, featuring Maisky’s own transcriptions of songs by Brahms, Schubert and French composers. His concerto recordings have included the Schumann Concerto with the Vienna Philharmonic under Bernstein, the Dvorak Concerto and Bloch’s Schelemo with the Israel Philharmonic, also with Bernstein, Haydn with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Elgar and Tchaikovsky with the Philharmonia and Sinopoli, Shostakovich with the London Symphony Orchestra under Michael Tilson Thomas, Vivaldi, Boccherini,Tchaikovsky, Schumann and Saint-Saens with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and Prokofiev and Miaskovsky with Pletnev and the Russian National Orchestra.
In 1995, after an absence of 23 years, Maisky played in Moscow. In great demand as a chamber player, Maisky has performed with a number of extraordinary musicians, including Vladimir Ashkenazy, Gidon Kremer, Peter Serkin, and Martha Argerich. Maisky and Argerich recorded Bach’s ‘Sonatas for viola da gamba and harpsichord’ (played on their modern equivalents, cello and piano), winning ‘the Record Academy Prize of Tokyo’ and the French ‘Grand Prix du Disque’. Maisky also won these prizes for his performance of the Bach ‘Six suites for solo cello’.
As a powerful and polished soloist, Maisky is the only cellist to have received a Deutsche Grammophon offer to record Bach’s complete works for the cello.