The Madison Symphony Orchestra was thrilled to welcome Christina and Michelle Naughton back to Overture Hall for our November 11, 12, & 13 concerts, Enchanted Piano & Personal Favorite. Read reviews from the concert weekend, hear what the audience had to say, and view pictures below!

Bill Wineke / Channel 3000: “Wineke: Naughton Sisters Shine at MSO”

There’s a real temptation when referring to Christina and Michelle Naughton, professional pianists who grew up in Madison and received their musical start playing with our youth concerts, as being local kids doing well.

Which is, of course, true. But the local angle can detract from the deserved fame the two have earned since they began their professional careers as piano duos in 2010.

We will come back to that, but, first, the two dazzled the Madison Symphony Orchestra audience Friday night as they sat opposite one another on concert grand pianos and played Max Bruch’s “Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra.”

It’s not easy. Pianos tend to be solo instruments and playing them in such a way as to make them seem one takes more musical skill than most pianists can muster.

The sisters, identical twins who were first instructed in piano at age four by their mother, handed off lead parts to one another with abandon, blended in with the efforts of conductor John DeMain and the MSO and, overall, seemed to be having a marvelous time.

This was the third concerts of the orchestra’s 2022=2023 season and my guess is that, when the season ends, I will consider this the best overall offering the year.

It began with “Danzon No. 2,” a lively piece by Mexican composer Arturo Marquez and ended with Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s “Pathetique” symphony.

The pieces were quite different but shared a rhythmic joy that seemed pretty toe-tapping for a symphony.

Despite what I just said about “joy,” Tchaikovsky’s symphony, performed for the first time just nine days before he died – possibly of suicide – is basically a tribute to immense sorrow. It ends not with a bang but a whisper.

But, the music is thrilling and will capture your attention from the first note to the last.

Back to the Naughton sisters.

They played their first adult Madison concert here in 2012 and returned in 2016. They each earned undergraduate degrees from the Curtis Institute and master’s degrees from Julliard.

They have been featured with orchestras in Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Detroit, Atlanta, St. Louis and with the Royal Scottish Philharmonic, the Netherlands Philharmonic – really quite a few major orchestras around the world.

But, they did grow up here and we’re glad to see them back home.

Read the review on Channel 3000’s website


Matt Ambrosio / Cap Times: “Naughtons dazzle Madison with a double piano concerto”

As colorful leaves begin to disappear, our clocks shift backward, a contentious midterm season comes to a close and more normal Madison November weather sets in, I had been feeling a bit down. Luckily, the Madison Symphony Orchestra’s Friday night concert was a perfect remedy.

It excited me out of my gloom with a dazzling performance by Christina and Michelle Naughton, and at the same time it settled me into the inevitable approaching cold months with Tchaikovsky’s epic final symphony. For those suffering a similar pathology, the MSO will perform this same program twice more this weekend, on Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

I was delighted that the MSO opened the concert with a work from a living composer, Arturo Marquez’s Danzón No. 2. Danzón is a musical genre and dance that originated in Cuba and is very popular in Mexico, where Marquez is from. Danzón No. 2 has a strong groove supported by a persistent clave rhythm, an African-influenced rhythm popular in several Latin American music styles.

Save a few moments here and there, the MSO locked smoothly into the groove and the result was energetic. The piece features several quick changes in tempo and texture, and though the MSO had some difficulty with a few of the transitions between differing sections, they pulled together for a strong ending.

For the concerto number of the evening, the MSO invited back to Overture Hall the twin piano power duo, Christina and Michelle Naughton, who grew up in Madison. On this visit, the sisters performed Max Bruch’s Concerto for Two Pianos with a synchronicity rarely seen.

At the start of the piece, the sisters met eyes and played the opening motive in lock step without any incongruity. As the piece progressed, melodies and phrases jumped seamlessly from one piano to the other as if the sisters were of a single mind. In addition to their uncanny coordination, the twins also proved tactful technicians of their instruments, demonstrating both strength and constraint.

Read the review on the Cap Times’s website


What Concert Attendees Had to Say…

This concert was FUN!! The first two pieces were energetic and fun to watch the players and conductor. The Tchaikovsky was beautiful. This was the best concert I have seen in all the years of having tickets!

The piece for double piano was amazing! Certainly love Tchaikovsky.

The piano duo was more compelling than expected. Incredible amount of teamwork and keyboard skills. I also enjoyed the Marquez piece and was glad to become acquainted with this composer.

Who can resist the sisters? The whole concert, however! I’ve studied and taught serious music all my adult life. The entire performance was stellar!

The Naughton sisters were fabulous. They are individually very skilled pianists. As duo pianists, they were perfectly coordinated. The Bruch Concerto was enjoyable as well.

The Overture center is a wonderful venue and even the cheapest seats sound great. I was unfamiliar with the specific pieces played, but very much enjoyed the Tchaikovsky symphony. I appreciated the accompanying programs notes that related the composer’s life to the specific piece. It made the piece that much more interesting

The 6th symphony was really special.

Wonderful performance in a beautiful acoustically great venue at a very reasonable price

Danzon No.2 was amazing! I’d never heard the piece before and it was such a treat to hear something so fun and lively, and then to change gears into more romantic then melancholy music.

Really enjoyed the departure with the Marquez. The Tchaikovsky no. 6 is now a favorite due to the back story and the wonderful Symphony performance. Enjoyed the pianists too – one of my favorite concerts.

The Naughton sisters’ performance was spell-binding.

I enjoyed seeing some world class young artists who grew up in Madison. It was fun to see the keyboard from the balcony as they played.

The Bruch was a revelation — I did not know the piece and it was dramatic and stirring

This was one concert in which I greatly enjoyed every piece. And the Naughton sisters are very memorable. And finally experiencing a new great composer, Marquez .

Great diversity of music in the program. Credit to John DeMain for those choices

All three pieces were great music, so to have them together in one concert was a real treat. Tchaikovsky’s symphonies 4,5, and 6 will always draw me in. The Bruch was also a beautiful piece masterfully performed by the Naughton sisters and MSO.

We heard and very much liked two new compositions, one performed by the orchestra and the other by the Naughton sisters. The closing piece was a familiar one but made ever more beautiful with the outstanding performance by the orchestra.

Naughton sisters were spectacular. Tchaikovsky Symphony is a great piece of music and the symphony played it beautifully. Marquez piece was also a great piece of music.

All aspects were beautiful. I liked being introduced to unfamiliar music with the first selection. The sisters played the Bruch beautifully. The Tchiakovsky was breathtaking. Maestro DeMain always presents such an interesting program.

Photos from the concerts & rehearsals