Twin Pianists Perform Mozart Concerto Seamlessly with MSO

By Elaine Schmidt, Special to the Journal Sentinel

Pianists don’t have to be twins to give stellar performances of music written for two pianos, but it apparently doesn’t hurt.

Twin sisters Christina and Michelle Naughton, internationally known natives of Madison, joined the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and guest conductor Christopher Seaman on Friday morning for a seamless performance of the Mozart Concerto in E-flat major for two pianos and orchestra.

Seated facing each other across nested pianos, the pianists gave a performance that was both musically rich and remarkably well synchronized.

The Naughton sisters play exceptionally well together, handing phrases back and forth with musical single-mindedness, playing melodies, harmonies and ornaments together in perfect tandem and beginning fast, fluid runs in the hands of one sister, only to have them picked up in midstream by the other.

It was in the shared cadenzas of the piece that one really saw and heard the sisters’ remarkable unity of style, musical sensibility and technique.

The program opened with Handel’s “Music for the Royal Fireworks,” with Seaman playing the harpsichord and conducting. Once a couple of missed notes and uncertain tempos early in the piece were out of the way, Seaman and the orchestra gave a spirited, engaging performance.

The performance was built on some fine ensemble work within the orchestra, including some cohesive string section sounds and lovely moments between oboe and bassoon.

MSO principal clarinetist Todd Levy performed the Stamitz concerto for clarinet in B-flat major with precision and musical depth.

Levy used a wide range of perfectly controlled dynamics, some artfully crafted phrasings and a couple of stylistically surprising cadenzas to bring life to a rather bland piece.

Seaman and the orchestra repeated Haydn’s Symphony No. 100 in G Major (“Military”), which the MSO also performed as part of Wednesday evening’s Joshua Bell gala concert.