Rheinische Post: The Naughton sisters at the Ruhr Piano Festival in Düsseldorf

Foto: Peter Wieler

Foto: Peter Wieler

Piano duos can be just as different from each other as individual musical personalities. The twin pianists Christina and Michelle Naughton thus enter a sphere in which duos are not often encountered: that of downright idyllic spontaneity.

By Lars Wallerang

At the Ruhr Piano Festival, held in the Robert Schumann hall, the Americans, of Eurasian origin, were something to experience - putting on a dazzling performance ranging from Mozart to John Adams. The effortless ease with which they played was visually underscored by the delicately flowing dresses worn by the two young women. Meanwhile, they had very technically difficult fare to deal with, for example, the Suite No.2 for Two Pianos by Sergei Rachmaninoff. While the Naughtons don’t play with concentrated force on the Steinways as energetically as the Labeque sisters, they instead play with far more color and more facets. This evening they made the virtuoso passages in the final Presto-Tarantella appear amazingly effortless. It seemed as though the twins could simply smile away any pianistic obstacles - all without slowing the tempo or doing anything else to make it easy for themselves.

The charming performance of the Naughtons was particularly well-suited to the elegantly humorous Sonata for Piano Four Hands by the French early modern composer Francis Poulenc, whose music combines classical forms and cheeky harmonies and rhythms with refined sophistication. The siblings were also completely in their element performing a piano-potpourri from Leonard Bernstein’s “Candide” (Arrangement: Charlie Harmon). They performed the fiery overture (the best-known piece from the Voltaire opera) not excessively fast, but compellingly.

The performance then became especially fast-paced with John Adams and his hit “Short Ride in a Fast Machine” wherein the Naughton twins really stepped on the gas, giving an immensely impressive performance of the piece, conveying the unending optimism of one embarking on a journey, but where the journey actually leads nowhere; demonstrating that the path itself can be the ultimate goal.

Musically superb and transparent: Mozart’s complex Fugue for Two Pianos K426 - while not the most virtuoso, was the most musically demanding piece of the evening. The pianists mastered the miraculous world of Mozart’s polyphony with ease. The audience was transported to Paradise when listening to one of the encores - “Le jardin feerique” from Ravel’s “Ma Mere l’Oye” - so beautifully brought to life that you thought you were dreaming.

There was enthusiastic applause in the well-attended Schumann concert hall.

Flaco Zacarias