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h5>Buzz: Music taken from Malay Mail (11/12/03) Donated by Christina

Maksim’s maxim: "It is easy to jump on the bandwagon and say that Maksim is jumping on Vanessa Mae's bandwagon."

Nevertheless, the Croatian-born piano player isn't ruffled by such suggestions.

"I am not a Vanessa Mae on piano, I am Maksim on piano,'' said the lanky pianist.

He was in Kuala Lumpur on a promotional tour recently.

They may play different instruments, but it's hard to miss the similarities between both artistes in terms of musical direction.

Some years back, we had the debut of Vanessa, as a violin player who proved that yes, you can actually sell classical music to the MTV crowd. Her album, The Violin Player, sold millions of copies and her music videos enjoyed regular airplay on MTV.

It was just a matter of the correct packaging and management.

A few club-friendly beats thrown into say, Bach's and Vivaldi's compositions was the winning formula.

Maksim does pretty much the same. He plays a few classical pieces on his album, spiced with techno beats and synthesizer rhythms such as Handel's Sarabande and Chopin's Revolutionary Etude in C Minor, besides newer pieces by Croatian composer Tonci Huljic. Even his album was called The Piano Player, reminiscent of Vanessa's equally straightforward album title.

"I do it because I like it. I always like to experiment,'' said Maksim on his choice to go the mainstream route. "I like to use consoles, having lasers in my shows. Performing crossover music is very interesting.'' He describes his music as a blend of classical and modern with well as electropop thrown in, and catering to the easy listening crowd. Indeed the tracks in his album would feel at home in any trendy joint that wishes for an air of classical elegance while still drawing a contemporary, younger crowd.

And that is the meat of the matter. Classical music as well as instrumentals are generally more popular to the more mature and educated people. But Vanessa managed to bridge the gap by being accessible to almost everybody, and paving the way for acts like Maksim.

Being of a classical background, and playing strictly classical pieces for years in his native Croatia, it would have been natural that Maksim would be slaughtered by purists for that decision.

"Well, critics form a small part of the audience. Croatian critics in particular are used to me playing classical. But mostly, people like my music.'' Detractors or no, Maksim seems confident that people would evaluate his work on its merits rather than slamming him for trying to reach a larger audience. He hopes to reach people who have yet to be exposed to piano music as well as those who wish for a contemporary variations of classical music. But in the end, whoever he is playing to, the most important audience is himself. As long as he is happy with the quality of the end product, that's all that matters.

Talking about the quality of his work and his prowess on the piano; it has to be noted that Maksim has an impressive resume.

Having won the Nicolai Rubinstein International Piano Competition in 1999 and the Pontoise Piano Competition in 2001, it is small wonder that Maksim's talent has drawn so much attention. Behind all the techno arrangements lie a brilliant technique but without being machine-like.

Maksim's signature tune would be the radio-friendly Flight of the Bumble-Bee, but his rendition of Dance of the Baroness is also commendable. Playing such complex passages with astounding precision and amazing empathy, Maksim is, without doubt, very good.

Even the tunes designed for a mass audience have his delightful touch, making it all irresistibly enjoyable.

However, making the album was no walk in the park, even for someone as obviously talented as Maksim. "During my first recording, I was given scores for four tracks which I had never seen in my entire life,'' Maksim said. "I had eight days to practice them, before going to London to record.''

Note: while this was taken from the public domain, Christina has spent plenty of time typing it, so if you glean it off MIB, please link back to MIB or Christina's site.