The Madison Symphony Orchestra is thrilled to welcome Christina and Michelle Naughton back to Overture Hall for our November 11, 12, & 13 concerts, Enchanted Piano & Personal Favorite. This will be their third performance with the Madison Symphony Orchestra, previously performing in 2016 and 2012. Read reviews from their prior appearances in Madison to discover why the MSO continues to invite them back to perform with us — plus, learn more and buy tickets for Enchanted Piano & Personal Favorite, Nov 11-13!
(2016) John Barker / The Isthmus: “Familial Spirit: Madison Symphony Orchestra presents varied program for November”
In the solo slot, we are offered a double treat: a pair of pianistic twins, Christina and Michelle Naughton, both with early connections to Madison. Their vehicle is Mozart’s concerto in E-flat major, K. 365, for two pianos and orchestra, written for the composer and his sister to play for the sheer fun of it. The twin sisters evoke that familial spirit in a lively rendition. There are, to be sure, some touches of prettified nuance here and there, but the interactions are perfectly coordinated.
At the Friday evening concert, after the Mozart, the twins sat down at one piano for an encore, a raucous and athletic four-hand piece called “Boogie,” by the contemporary American composer Paul Schoenfield — who may be remembered as one of the commission composers for the Pro Arte Quartet’s centennial celebrations.
(2016) Greg Hettmansberger / What Greg Says: “A Perfectly Timed Homecoming: Madison Symphony welcomes the Naughton twins back to town”
It’s not unusual for Madison Symphony music director John DeMain to bring back guest soloists over the years, but when Christina and Michelle Naughton return to Overture Hall, it’s a treat on several levels.
It’s tempting to say “we knew them when,” as the ladies grew up here and won competitions and made guest appearances with the MSO and the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra even as their careers were about to take them far and wide. It seems as though they were always poised and polished, but their collaboration with DeMain and the MSO Friday night in Mozart’s Concerto for Two Pianos apparently revealed that their artistic unity continues to raise the bar of excellence. The fact that their return this time coincided with the UW-Madison’s homecoming weekend just made it seem all the more appropriate.
The work is charming and engaging, and deserves more frequent hearings—yet one wanted to hear the pair in a recital setting, as the repertoire for two pianos alone is wider and generally more interesting than the limited choices for two pianos and orchestras. Indeed, we got such a glimpse in the encore, as the ladies gave us a blistering reading of a work for one piano, four hands: Paul Schonfield’s “Boogie.” Notes were spraying everywhere among splashes of bracing dissonance; Michelle seemed to barely a suppress a wry smile that suggested a sly “isn’t this fun?” attitude. The audience responded with a swift, roaring ovation that topped the one given after the Mozart.
(2016) Jessica Courtier / Cap Times: “Concert review: MSO delivers heart-wrenching performance of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 5”
If “Le Printemps” was pretty, then Mozart’s Concerto in E-flat for Two Pianos as performed Christina and Michelle Naughton was witty.
Goethe once described chamber music as a conversation between rational people. He was referring to string quartets, but the metaphor applies here as well to the dialogue between the piano parts as they cleverly call back and forth.
The two young pianists seemed to be enjoying their performance very much. The sibling performance echoed the fact that Mozart almost certainly composed the piece to play with his sister Maria Anna, also a gifted pianist and composer.
(2012) John Barker / The Isthmus: “Madison-raised pianists Christina and Michelle Naughton flaunt their technique and charm with the Madison Symphony Orchestra”
“Twice as Nice,” the Madison Symphony Orchestra program for the first weekend of November, features a pair of soloists — twins, in fact, and local ones to boot. I took in Friday night’s performance at Overture Hall.
Since 2008, Madison natives Christina and Michelle Naughton have moved into international careers, committed to their pairing as a piano duo. Instinctively in sync, they are brilliant technicians, but with the added — and quite evident — distinction of relishing their partnership.
Their official contribution to the program was Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra by Poulenc. It displays a jolly range of influences, from Mozart to jazz, music-hall songs and gamelan music. Though it is anything but profound music, its bouncy and often tuneful charm is quite irresistible.
The sisters followed the concerto with an unusually long encore: Scaramouche, Milhaud’s three-movement suite for two pianos. This sassy, Brazilian-inspired work offers them just the flashy display in which they revel — and present with such polished flair. The twins’ future career will be something to follow.
(2012) Greg Hettmansberger / Channel 3000: “Madison Symphony Offers Double Vision, Unified Sound”
They started out as, and will always remain, Madison’s own, but the twin pianists Christina and Michelle Naughton increasingly belong to the whole world, musically speaking. Friday night they returned to the stage of Overture Hall, joining the Madison Symphony Orchestra in a performance of the Concerto in D minor for Two Pianos by Poulenc. It proved to be a combination of “we knew them when,” and a joyous explosion.
Dressed in complementary, but not identical, formal black dresses, the young ladies look young enough to be ready for the prom — but they play like they’re ready to open their own conservatory. In the first movement of the concerto, their facial expressions were often a playful match for the composer’s tongue-in-cheek turns of phrase, but the playing was deadly serious in its accuracy and power. After a Mozartian-tinged middle movement, the finale offered a kind of “playpen” mentality, all boisterous fun and barely controlled energy.
Conductor John DeMain had the orchestral forces on the same wavelength, and the collective collegiality between soloists and ensemble was palpable.
After the raucous audience response, Christina (she was the one with the silver hairband, seated to the audience’s left of center, if you’re curious) announced an encore of Milhaud’s “Scaramouche.” The opening section, with its rollicking Brazilian-based rhythms, sparked the audience to early applause. The ladies smiled across their Steinways as if to say “this always seems to happen,” before giving us the lyrical contrast of the work’s middle portion, and a return of the main material. The duo has just released their first cd; look for a review of it in a December “gift guide” blog in this space.
What 2016 Concert Attendees Had to Say…
“The twins played beautifully and had an amazing encore.”
“I thought it was such an exciting concert. One of the best live performances I have ever heard or seen.”
“The two sisters were phenomenal, and amazing.”
“The Naughton sisters were perfect, and MSO provided excellent support for them.”
“The Naughton sisters were exceptional.”
“The performance of the Naughton women was beyond mere words to adequately compliment.”
“We are big fans of two-piano music, and the Naughtons in particular are world-class in this area!”
“The Naughton sisters were magical!”