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WQXR Features

Mischa Maisky: From Dissident Cellist to World Citizen

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Mischa Maisky is known as a cellist that audiences turn to when they want a particularly soulful, passionate performance. With his penchant for brightly colored silk shirts and flowing hair, he also makes a striking impression on stage. In this one-hour special, Maisky speaks with David Garland about his unlikely and eventful career, from his studies in Russia to his collaborations with artists like Martha Argerich, Leonard Bernstein and his own daughter, pianist Lily Maisky.

Born in Riga, Latvia in 1948, Maisky studied in Leningrad and Moscow, spent two years in a Soviet prison camp, and emigrated to Israel. His teachers included the great Mstislav Rostropovich and Gregor Piatagorsky. And that was just his "first life," as he calls it.

Today, Maisky considers himself a citizen of the world. "I do live in Europe and feel very European," he tells Garland. "I play an Italian cello with French bows and German strings. I drive a Japanese car and wear a Swiss watch and Indian necklace. My first wife was American, my second beautiful wife is Italian. And by chance, all four of my children were born in four different countries. I always say I feel at home wherever people enjoy great classical music."

In advance of Maisky's performance with the Moscow Chamber Soloists on Saturday at Lincoln Center, he joins us to share some of his recordings, including performances of Bach, Schumann, Haydn and Falla.

Bonus Clip:

Mischa Maisky talks about his run-in with the Soviet authorities and eventual arrest and prison sentence. David Garland also asks him about contemporary Russian politics in the age of Vladimir Putin: