Review: WCO Audience Cheers Sisters

By William R. Wineke. Special To Channel 3000

To my mind, the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra wasn’t quite up to its best during its first concert a couple of weeks ago.

It more than made up for that perceived (I have friends who disagreed with my assessment) lack during its second Master Works concert Friday night in the Capitol Theater.

Sister pianists Christina and Michelle Naughton brought the audience to its collective cheering feet as they mastered twin grand pianos to play Mendelssohn’s “Concerto for Two Pianos in E Major.”

It wasn’t just their artistry, which was spectacular, but the sisters – former Madison residents who attended Edgewood High School and currently study at the Curtis School of Music in Philadelphia –stage presence was daunting.

Even as they played a difficult duet, and even as they paid heed to music director Andrew Sewell and the orchestra, the sisters played off one another, grinning and mouthing the beat of the orchestra and, for all the world, acting as if they were showing off for one another, oblivious to the audience.

They just seemed to be having the best time in the world and it didn’t take the audience long to get in on the act. People were on their feet applauding and cheering almost before the music died out.

The two began their piano studies at age 4 and have played at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., the New Jersey Symphony and the Chamber Music San Francisco Series.

Friday’s program also included Schubert’s “Unfinished” Symphony No. 8 in B Minor, a piece which includes what, to my mind, is one of the most hummable tunes in music and “The Adjustable Wrench,” by Milwaukee native Michael Torke. The “Wrench” is a cheerful piece with lots of staccato brass, but it goes on for a couple of minutes longer than it might.

The orchestra was flawless throughout the evening and would have deserved a standing ovation in its own right – but those of us who were there insisted on giving all our love to the Naughton sisters.