Maisky began studies with Mstislav Rostropovich at the Moscow Conservatory whilst pursuing a concert career throughout the Soviet Union. In 1970, he was imprisoned in a labor camp near Gorky for 18 months. After his release, he emigrated to Israel to avoid further persecution by the Soviet regime. He also studied for a time with Gregor Piatigorsky in Los Angeles. He currently lives in Belgium.
In his performing and recording career, Maisky has worked in long-standing partnerships with artists such as the pianists Martha Argerich and Radu Lupu, the violinist Gidon Kremer, and the conductors Leonard Bernstein, Zubin Mehta, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Daniel Barenboim, and Giuseppe Sinopoli. He has played worldwide and has made hundreds of recordings.