A Sensation With Four Hands {Saale Zeitung} (Translation)

By Gerhild Ahnert

Bad Kissingen – Wow, how nice to see that it can still happen, a new sensation at the festival! The 24-year-old twin sisters Christina and Michelle Naughton from Philadelphia have been known in Europe for three years now. So far, only one CD has appeared, a recording of a concert at Radio Bremen. But the audience already realized during Mendelssohn’s Andante and Variations Bb-Major, op. 83a that the two young women are not only almost limitless masters of technique, they also possess an equal mastery of musical intuition, creativity, and precision.

When they interpreted Conlon Nancarrow’s “Sonatine for Piano” (which was intended for a player piano) in their very own way, sometimes jazzy, sometimes soft, and sometimes defiant, one could hear the first enthusiastic Bravos, and the audience sensed that they were witnessing something extraordinary. With Schubert’s Allegro a-Minor D 947, the duo showed that they are also thoughtful interpreters of romantic repertoire, and they performed Dvorak’s “Two Slavic Dances” op. 46/2 and 5 in an amused and amusing fashion, turning them into elaborate ironic yet cheerful chamber pieces.

This first half was a perfectly played, precisely planned and cheerful overture to Igor Stravinsky’s opus magnum on the second half of the concert. His very own version of “Sacre du Printemps” for four hands showed that reducing an orchestral piece to a piano version can actually make it something better, when interpreted in the clear and differentiated way, never diluted by too much sustain, as the Naughton twins did with their meticulous choreography of four arms. In spite of the demanding polyrhythms and the high density of motives, the two pianists managed to use their phenomenal technique and sense of dynamics to shape the sometimes brutally wild and sometimes secretive and mystic passages of the monumental piece into a coherent and always fascinating whole.

Excited Bravos, great applause, and three encores.

Flaco Zacarias