Naughton sisters bring musical unity to MSO concert
Elaine Schmidt, Special to the Journal Sentinel
The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra delivered the delightful auditory equivalent of double vision Saturday evening.
Duo pianists Christina and Michelle Naughton joined the MSO, under music director Edo de Waart, for a completely mesmerizing performance of the Poulenc Concerto in D minor for Two Pianos and Orchestra.
The twin sisters, both expressive, technically agile performers who pull an astonishing array of sounds and colors from the piano, played on nested instrument, facing each other.
They played as a single musical mind, matching colors, dynamics and articulations flawlessly, trading phrases and sharing engrossing musical statements so seamlessly that it was often hard to tell where one sister’s line stopped and the other’s began.
The orchestra brought that same kind of musical unity to the stage, sharing and trading lines neatly and executing dynamic swells and ebbs fluidly.
The sisters offered a jaw-dropping encore of Paul Schoenfield’s “Boogie” for piano four-hands (two players at one piano). The piece’s pianistic pyrotechnics became ballet as the sisters leaned and bobbed out of each other’s way, playing with a unity of thought and execution that sounded like a single player was seated at the piano.
De Waart and the orchestra closed the evening with a performance of Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony that came across the footlights as the mercurial composer’s expression of a profoundly good mood.
Lively tempos, a constant inner pulse, clean, expressive playing, a beautifully lilting third movement, and an effervescent, high-energy fourth movement were all part of the mix. Even in its biggest dynamics and most sweeping phrases, this interpretation remained nimble, light on its feet, and completely fresh.
De Waart and musicians of the MSO divided and conquered for the openings of both halves of the concert. The winds and brass gave a performance of Stravinsky’s Symphonies of Wind Instruments (1947 revision) packed with clear, ringing sounds, tremendous musical communication, and pristine rhythms.
The strings brought delicious contrasts to Stravinsky’s Concerto in D major for String Orchestra, from smoothly blended full-ensemble sounds to delicate timbres of solo lines and interesting pairings of instruments.