Cello Master in the House
As he did three years ago, renowned cellist Mischa Maisky appears at the Lobero to close out the current concert season of CAMA—this time, though, its grand 100th birthday.
Mischa Maisky and Lily Maisky
When: 8 p.m., Monday
Where: Lobero Theater, 33 E. Canon Perdido
Tickets are $39 and $49
It was three years that ago, to the month, acclaimed cellist Mischa Maisky graced the Lobero Theatre stage with his pianist daughter, Lily Maisky, and closing out that season of concerts presented by CAMA. He repeats the favor on Monday, again at the Lobero in recital with his daughter, and offering the official finale of a CAMA season. The difference this time out is the he will close out the milestone 100th anniversary season of CAMA, making it the oldest continuous classical music presenter on the west coast.
As heard back in 2016 and as affirmed by a stellar—if controversial—reputation in the world of living cellists, Mr. Maisky makes a bold, dramatic and some sway unsubtle impression. The Latvia-born, long Israel-based and now living in Belgium, the cellist comes proudly from the school of romantic extroversion, unlike, say, cellist YoYo Ma who performed at the Granada last week.
Mr. Maisky, now 71, has recorded more than 50 albums and performed with the world’s top orchestras. He also holds the distinction of having studied with two legendary—and now formerly-living—legends, Msitaslav Rostropovich and Gregor Piatagorsky. When I mentioned, during an interview with the cellist, that his close encounters with historic legends was amazing, he quickly agreed that “it’s amazing for me, too. I call myself the “luckiest cellist in the world.” Anybody can claim that in a subjective way, but I do have objective reasons, and this is a major one. I’m the only cellist who had the great privilege and lucky to study with both of them.
“I was also lucky to meet Pablo Casals, two months before he passed away at the age of almost 97 years old—or I should say “97 years young.” He was really incredibly young in spirit. The pictures which were made during this encounter, when I played for him for almost two hours, turned out to be the last pictures of Casals, according to some people. Just the fact that I was so lucky to meet him and to play for him, sometimes I wonder if I’m not dreaming.
“It’s the same with the fact that I played more than 20 concerts and made three recordings with Leonard Bernstein, and for my chamber music partnerships with the great (pianist) Radu Lupu and an important and long-lasting relationship with (pianist) Martha Argerich. We had a European tour to celebrate 40 years of friendship and collaboration.”
Having the chance to perform with his daughter, born in 1987 and a respected musician in her own right, is, according to Mischa, “another reason I can all myself very lucky. It’s like a dream-come-true.”
He remember that “when she was almost two-years-old, and her brother Sascha was born, I told my wife at the time—her mother—that my biggest dream is that Lily would play piano and Sascha could play violin, and we could play and travel together. She said ‘sure, it would be wonderful, but don’t hold your breath.’ Very often, children of musicians don’t want to become musicians, or sometimes they’re not gifted enough. It can be like good wine, with a generation in-between. My reaction was ‘that’s ok. So then my dream is to play with my grandchildren.’
“Luckily, I didn’t have to wait that long. I have played with Lily for about 11 eleven years, as a duo, and have played with Sascha in a trio. It is really an amazing feeling. It’s something I don’t even attempt to describe with words. It’s unique. Not many musicians are so lucky. There are many cases of children of musicians becoming musicians themselves, but only rarely are there successful combinations on stage within the family.”
2016’s program included Bruch, Britten and Astor Piazzolla. On Monday, this season’s menu goes straighter down the middle of his core repertoire, with J.S. Bach, Brahsm, Russian fare by Tchaikovsky and Shostakovich, and Mozart—“Pamina’s Aria” from “The Magic Flute,” arranged by Mr. Maisky.
As with most cellists, and musicians in other areas, Mr. Maisky has had a lifelong ad passionate connection to the music of J.S. Bach, and especially the iconic cello suites. But he decidedly brings his own approach to that music, sometimes with what some listeners describe as a romanticized angle on Baroque experesssion.
Addressing the adaptability of Bach’s music, he asserted that “I’m certainly not someone who would pretend to be an expert of the Bible, but I know there are many different translations of the Bible—more than translations, there are many interpretations. They are so different from each other, we can hardly recognize that they come from the same origins. The same can be said of Bach interpretations. There are over 65 recordings of the Bach suites, not only on cello, but on viola and guitar and other things. It’s amazing how different they can be. Sometimes, you can hardly recognize them as the same music.”
Mr. Maisky, now a seventysomething and still going strong, views the process of striving to make great music “a never-ending process. For me, quality was always more important than quantity. I never, in my life, for a second, was bored. I don’t know what it means, boredom. I never could be bored with playing the same Bach suites or Beethoven Sonatas or Shostakovich, Dvorak Concerto or Richard Strauss, or you name it. I know that no matter how long I live and how hard I try, I will never come close to the ideal interpretation of this great music, to give justice to it.”