Tanya Anisimova spent most of the program alone onstage in Saturday afternoon's "In" Series concert -- alone with her cello, that is. But that was all the company she needed except in the first and last selections on the program, where she was joined in a smoothly expert partnership by pianist Carla Hubner, founder and artistic director of the series. The pieces with Hubner -- Schumann's imaginative Fantasy Pieces, Op. 73, and four selections from Falla's folk-flavored "Suite Populaire Espagnole" -- were the closest her program came to a traditional cello recital. The performance, at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, was the first event of the "In" Series annual celebration of female artists.
Most of the program was devoted to works for unaccompanied cello, including three of Anisimova's melodious, mystical and deeply emotional compositions. One work, Ezra Laderman's "A Single Voice," was composed for her and tailored to her style. A segment of Bach's Sonata No. 2 for unaccompanied violin was played in her transcription for cello. All were performed with a deep, supple, subtly expressive tone and an easy mastery of the instrument that seemed to recognize no technical problems.
To add to the impression of versatility, two of her compositions included wordless, powerfully evocative vocalises, which she sang with a pure, precisely controlled voice. This addition to the cello part may limit the possibility of performances by other cellists (I can't imagine Rostropovich or Yo-Yo Ma reaching the high notes that she tossed off with lyric grace), but it gave the music an added dimension and justified the concert's curious title, "Celle-Stial Mysticism."
Highlights of the program included Anisimova's "September 11," composed a few days after the terror attacks and capturing some of the mind-numbing horror of that event; her "Souvenir de St. Petersburg," reflecting on a visit to the Hermitage Museum; and Judith Shatin's "Sursum Corda" ("Lift up your hearts"), a dance piece that combines soaring melody with many technical challenges: glissando harmonics, simultaneous bowed and pizzicato notes, gruff declamation and sparkling arpeggios. Shatin was present to receive some well-deserved applause.