Dressed in a vivid orange and black-lace dress, cellist Zara Nelsova stepped onto the small black dais in the middel of the Terrace Theater stage yesterday afternoon with the dramatic presence of royalty ascending the throne. And, indeed, her nobility of concept and majesty of line in the opening selection, Siloti's arrangement of the Adagio from Bach's Toccata in C Major, musically confirmed that impression. With eyes closed, Nelsova played as if in an intense dialogue with Bach, finding insights of a truly aristocratic rarity.
In addition to an unfailing elegance of style Nelsova displayed a lively intelligence, particularly evident in her animated response to a Haydn C Major sonata -- an engaging work, at once tender and playful, seldom heard on recital programs. She seemed to take special pleasure in the final movement, a spirited set of variations that sent her traveling frequently into the upper reaches of the fingerboard.
The harmony of her partnership with pianist Brooks Smith, who provided solid and sympathetic support throughout the concert, was especially evident in a structurally forceful interpretation of Beethoven's A Major sonata. Debussy's sensuous cello sonata brought forth more of Nelsova's playfulness as well as an evocative warmth which took on an expansive romanticism in the closing Rachmaninoff sonata.