Mozart’s Two Pianos Dazzle in NC Symphony Program

By Tom Moore

Happily, the duo pianists Christina and Michelle Naughton brought an altogether sunnier mood to the double piano concerto, K.365, in E-flat, of Mozart. This is a relatively early work, dating to circa 1780, scored for a rather small ensemble of strings, with pairs of oboes, bassoon, and horns. The ensemble of the two keyboard players was simply superb, and the music benefited from their lovely cantabile and expressive articulation. (Oddly, there was a moment in which the accidentals in an ornamental turn were certainly wrong, leading to a most un-Mozartean harmony, and this moment recurred, so it was intentional and not just a momentary flaw.) The unusual combination of two pianos in the concerto meant that the orchestra was left with remarkably little to do, and indeed the NCS could have gotten by with half the number of players on stage. The charming closing rondo was adorned by a duo cadenza that was absolute perfection, and the Naughtons were welcomed back for a 20th-century encore, the Paganini Variations of Lutoslawski, in which they displayed a simply other-worldly level of virtuosity. This duo will go far.