Der neue Merker review

By Dr. Ingobert Waltenberger

For their debut album on the Warner label, Christina and Michelle Naughton—twin pianist sisters from Princeton, New Jersey, with European and Chinese heritage—have selected a repertoire that expresses joy, happiness and peace. Olivier Messiaen wrote his "Visions de l'Amen" in 1943 following his release from a prisoner of war camp. The seven movements of this composition are imbued with an incredibly orchestral sound, adorned with a mystical smile yet strongly inquisitive and full of hope and dynamism; a quest for the divine flows into these visions of the word "amen". Messiaen gave the two pianos very different roles; the first is entrusted with rhythmical flourishes while the second takes care of the melodic and thematic elements of the piece — everything that is needed to express emotion and strength. Christina and Michelle Naughton interpret each individual track in a wonderfully assured manner. Their "joy in experiencing and learning things together" is embodied in the form of a unique musical dialog, giving the listener the feeling of being particularly close to Messiaen's universe and the elements of the characteristic sound he created. It is not every day that the listener can experience so much creative naturalness and optimistic energy in their living room.
The program is supplemented by the short sonatina from Johann Sebastian Bach's "Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit, 'Actus Tragicus'" (BWV 106), as well as "Hallelujah Junction" by John Adams. According to Christina Naughton, Adams' work offers "an extraordinary expression of 'in-the-moment' joy, written in a fresh and modern idiom. It is a masterpiece!"

The sisters' powerful playing measures up to the bold, cleverly selected program, which is far from mainstream, and the more mechanical and mathematical elements of the music are relentlessly sculpted from the keys. The "Amen du Jugement" and the seventh movement, "Amen de la Consommation", sound as modern and uncompromising as the last music box of time.

More than just acting as a showcase for their flair, the sisters' work is a triumph.

Flaco Zacarias