The Brilliant Naughton Sisters
Offenbach Post by Klaus Ackerman
They are dynamite — and not just musically. Twins Christina and Michelle Naughton gave an acclaimed debut at Frankfurt's Alte Oper concert house. In two concertos by Mozart and Francis Poulenc, the dazzling sisters from Princeton, USA not only displayed virtuosity as they climbed the musical summit, but also demonstrated an assured sense of style in their appearance, which included a glamorous costume change.
Symphonically, the Frankfurt Opera House and Museum's Orchestra is perfectly attuned to Mozart. The orchestra was conducted for the first time by Nicaragua's Giancarlo Guerrero, currently in great demand at the podium. We go straight into Mozart's Paris Symphony in D-major, which sets out Guerrero's intentions, showing off a fine-tuned dialog development and a robust, dramatic upsurge in a regular tempo. The Naughton Sisters are also intimately acquainted with Mozart, taking the concerto for two pianos as an opportunity to demonstrate a profound mastery of the keys — with an astounding emotional harmony. The pianos sparkle, the song passages display a depth of feeling, and the final rococo Allegro is a potential hit.
These two piano greats face an even bigger challenge in the concerto for two pianos by the French iconoclast Poulenc, who masterfully cites and demystifies the heroes of romantic salon music. For the Naughtons—well-proven in the world of jazz—it is a thrilling, virtuosic performance, in the middle of which Rachmaninoff seems to have the blues. The twins are able to heighten this still further in the encore: the "Boogie" by American contemporary Paul Schoenfield, which from a technical perspective is crazy.
At that point, even Guerrero does not hold back — in Ravel's "La Valse," which strips down the Viennese waltz in exemplary fashion and turns it into a dance of death. Only for the older gentleman, demonstratively covering his ears, was it perhaps too much of a good thing.