REVIEW: The Naughton Sisters Set Curtis Pianos Ablaze

Christina and Michelle Naughton

Christina and Michelle Naughton

There was enough electricity at Curtis Institute’s Field Concert Hall yesterday afternoon to power all of Philadelphia during this week’s Papal visit.

That’s how good Christina and Michelle Naughton, identical twin pianists and alumni from Curtis, were during the season premiere of Curtis Presents. The Naughtons, who graduated from Curtis back in 2011, returned to their musical home, so to speak, to perform a brilliant program of both traditional and modern works to a packed house at Field Hall.

The twins started on one piano, playing a steady and gorgeously syncopated series of numbers from Bach and Brahms (“Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit,” “Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu did,” and “Herzlich tut mich verlangen”). However, it was when the sisters moved on to the modern composer John Adams and his Hallelujah Junction that they really  hit their stride. Their calculated musical attack on the number made it feel and sound like there was an entire symphony of instruments in Field Concert Hall, and left the indelible impression that the Naughton sisters may very well be the next great Adams interpreters.

The program concluded with Messiaen’s Visions de l’Amen, a lengthy piece that, once again, demonstrated the pianists’ technical mastery and visionary musicianship. The audience at yesterday afternoon’s concert was a true mix of musical patrons, but I couldn’t help but notice the larger than normal amount of young children in the house, all who seemed in awe of Christina and Michelle, both dressed in black sateen jeans, open-toe heels, and silk blouses. The Naughtons look like they’re pop stars, yet when I interviewed them several weeks ago, they were humble and fully aware of their musical heritage.

Nevertheless, the easiest way to sum up yesterday’s concert was best put by one of the kids in attendance: She couldn’t have been any older than 9 years old, and as she was leaving the theater, I could hear her tell her parents, “That was so cool.”