MANHATTAN, NY—Internationally acclaimed cellist Ian Maksin brought his unique and eclectic style before a packed audience at popular nightclub and performance space Le Poisson Rouge on Bleeker Street in the heart of Greenwich Village on a Wednesday night following New Year’s Day. Now at the height of his life-long virtuosity, Russian–born Maksin started mastering string instruments at the age of three, introduced by his father in his native St. Petersburg, known as Leningrad at the time.
Although clearly classically trained, he has hearkened to the siren’s call of blues, rock, jazz and world music, incorporating unique and personalized elements of these and more into his musical creations.
Thus, the adoring, all-ages audience was thrilled when he opened with his dazzling version of Bach’s Suite No.3 for Unaccompanied Cello, interlaced with the Beatles’ “Come Together” and with bluesy, bent-note phrases which he self-described as “Bach meets B.B. King.”
Next followed several pieces off Maksin’s album, Soul Companion, including a tribute to Sting, whom he admires and for whom he had previously opened; and he made the hearts of listeners soar with his interpretation of “Fields of Gold” and quotes from “Shape of My Heart.” After introducing Korean-American modern composer Paul Yeon Lee on stage, Maksin performed Lee’s atonal “Lost in the Echo.”
Then Maksin turned to variations on a traditional Russian love-song/lullaby, which soon evolved into an excursion through a world of folk musical themes that spanned from the Caucasus and Armenia, through Eastern Europe, and winding even through Celtic strains of Appalachia, all masterfully expressed by an unaccompanied cello. The halfway point in the event was reached with variations on a Russian theme from his Soul Companion and a new work called “Temptation of the Firebird,” an obvious reference to Stravinsky.
Maksin sang and accompanied himself of cello during the next segment, proving he has a really nice and well developed voice, tackling songs of longing composed by a Russian émigré in Paris during the so-called Soviet-induced Diaspora of Russians into Western Europe. These were mainly sung in Russian but included some French.
Maksin’s s version of “Before You Accuse Me” was inspired by Eric Clapton’s 1989 version, but sounded as down-home and authentic as Bo Diddley’s original. His treatment of Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine” was enhanced by his classical style treatment, as was Jacques Brel’s “Amsterdam,” recognizable by its familiar folk melody “Greensleeves,” on which it is based.
Maksin’s attempt to end the show and leave the stage sparked a near riot of devoted fans, so he returned and delighted them with an unexpected rendition of the theme from Game of Thrones, but that didn’t end the matter. A second attempt to leave the stage had to be postponed for yet another encore, this time the huge international and universally recognized hit “Caruso” by the late singer-songwriter Lucio Dalla from Bologna.
Finally—and now more than satisfied—the audience of classical music, jazz, ethnic Russian, blues, rock and world music fans released the artist to retire for the evening. He ended with a session of meeting fans, posing for photos and signing autographs by the exit from the auditorium.
Show date: Jan. 4, 2017