Scherzo Magazine Review | A moving and breathtaking duo

Preceded by great praise in the international music press, the Naughton sisters duo took the stage in the MPM auditorium, performing a highly attractive program with two works originally composed for piano four hands. The other pieces were adaptations or versions originally conceived for different formats and genres, as was the case of the selection of some excerpts from the opera Candide by Leonard Bernstein, with which they wanted to pay tribute on the centenary of his birth. Educated in the two most prestigious US schools: The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia and the Julliard School in New York, their hands distill the essence of the excellent technical and artistic training given in those institutions from which most of the finest performers of the great American nation have come. 

A superb interpretation of the Sonata, K.381 by Mozart opened their performance, conveying all of the joviality so characteristic of the master of Salzburg when he had the chance to express it with stimulating beauty such as that contained in the first and last movements of this little musical pearl. The first thing one noticed was the effortless mutual technical freedom that these sisters exhibit, which leads the listener to think that they are a single pianist that has been split in two rather than two individual musicians who come together to play a particular repertoire. The second aspect to highlight could be perceived in the central Andante of this sonata as it was played with a sensitive lyrical sense that benefited from their even hitting of the keys, which made for very homogeneous dynamics. The third section was a display of vitality, given the rhythm and resonance they brought to bear, seeking that symphonic patina that overlays the work.

The serene music of the two Bach opuses via the transcriptions by Brahms/Busoni, and Kurtág – Choral prelude No. 1, op.122 posthumous, and Sonatina (Actus Tragicus) BWV.106, respectively – was played with special concentration, which meant an emotional change for the spectator, who could admire the solid musicality of both pianists, united in the elegiac sentiment of these pieces. The sensitivity of the Naughton sisters found its best expression in Schubert’s Rondo in A Major, D.951, where they showed how they understand this work from the perspective of its substantial lieder-like character, following its song lines with singular delicateness. To conclude the first part, they took on a work of enormous technical difficulty: the Sonatina for Piano by the US-born Mexican composer Samuel Conlon Nancarrow, in the version for four hands by the pianist Yvar Mikhashoff. In this, one could appreciate the extraordinary technique they possess in the oblique approaches to crossed hands such as those displayed in the fugue for four voices of its final molto allegro passage, after the dance-like sensation they left in the slow central blues movement. 

The second part was entirely devoted to Candide. In this, they produced a curious dramatic facet of the way they play, letting themselves be influenced by the original work, which they transposed to the keyboard with remarkable descriptive beauty. The ingenuity of the Overture was displayed with masterful grace, a feeling that was under the surface throughout the two-sided interpretation, which held the spectator in constant state of surprise. Two exquisite encores completed the duo’s performance: the allegro brilliant, Op. 92 by Felix Mendelssohn and a passage of the charming Ma Mère l'Oye by Ravel. They more than satisfied an audience that succumbed to the art of these wonderful pianists, who have without a doubt given one of the most attractive concerts in the current Chamber Music Season organized by the Malaga Philharmonic Orchestra, held at the Picasso Museum in that city.

By José Antonio Cantón