Naughton Sisters Chill, Astound with Pianos

By Nat Fort

Goosebumps appeared on my arms as soon as the Naughton sisters started playing.

Last night at the Performing Arts Center, pianists Christina and Michelle Naughton opened with Mendelssohn’s “Andante and Allegro Brilliante in A Major, Op. 92” for four hands. Although two players and four hands were playing on one piano, the piece sounded as one; the only pauses in this piece were the ones that Mendelssohn intended.

Dark, romantic cadences of Schubert’s “Allegro in A Minor, D. 947, Lebenssturme” quickly transformed the high, classical sound of Mendelssohn’s piece. As one played deeper and meditative musings of the piece, the other created lighter, twinkling harmonies. As they built and gradually intensified the composition’s underlying drama, the Naughtons pounded its crescendos with the same intensity at precisely the same moment, showing their intuitiveness and familiarity with the piece and each other.

Their hands not only performed six movements of Brahms’ “Hungarian Dances,” they also sounded and looked as if they danced them as their nimble fingers spanned the keyboard. One of the twins gracefully lifted and re-positioned her hands as the other worked meticulously under her hands’ original placement.

All of the pieces that the Naughtons played were completely memorized; the turning of pages of sheet music never slowed their music. Not only did they know the pieces by heart, but they also knew each other’s parts, creating seamless, musical arrangements.

Pieces written for four hands comprised the first half of the concert and ones written for two pianos, set opposite of one another, made up the second half. It was a real treat to hear the Naughtons’ play both kinds of compositions. Although the sisters can see each other while they play, they communicated solely by listening and responding to each other through music. Mozart’s piece sounded like a spoken or sung conversation, demonstrating the twins’ ability to tease out the piano’s voice.
For the second half of the concert, which was made up of mostly contemporary pieces, the sisters moved from four hands on one piano to fours hands on two. At first, they were a little off-setting to the rest of the concert’s corpus: Bolcom’s “Recuerdos for Two Pianos” combined choppy slams and strikes with melodious parts, which created a fragmented sound. In spite of its sound, however, the twins played the modern works with as much energy and beauty as the concert’s classical pieces.

Ravel’s “La Valse” was chilling to hear, with its combinations of traditional, airy waltz parts with darker and louder sections. It created the perfect close to their performance, bringing the audience to honor the Naughtons’ with a first standing ovation.

The sisters held hands as they bowed, just as they shared hearts as they performed.