Twin pianists are masterful musicians

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The Naughton sisters. Photo via Columbia Artists Management Inc.

Last weekend I went to a concert. But it wasn’t at Turner Hall or the Pabst, my usual Saturday-night-concert spots.

This weekend, I went to the Marcus Center to see the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra for a class. Though it wasn’t my usual scene, I was looking forward to a classy evening at Uihlein Hall at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts downtown.

I found the classiness I was looking for — but it came with a surprise. A twin surprise.

My seat was on the first level in the back, so I had a pretty good view of the nearly sold-out theater as it filled up. The fact that there was only a handful of empty seats in the whole house signaled that it would be a good show, but the significant amount of heads with graying or white hair made me wonder if the music would appeal at all to my demographic.

The first piece, George Frideric Handel’s “Music for the Royal Fireworks,” was about what I expected from the show. The full orchestra played beautifully, building energy up, then slowing down again and repeating the pattern. It was lovely to listen to, but nothing that I would rave about to friends.

The next piece changed the entire mood of the performance from pleasant to phenomenal. With the support of the orchestra behind them, twin sisters Christina and Michelle Naughton played a four-hand piano Mozart piece in a dueling piano-esque style.

It blew the audience away. The Naughtons received an immediate and full standing ovation, and returned to the stage to play an encore of Lutoslawski’s Paganini Variations, a captivating and deliberately difficult piece.

The sisters exited the stage to another well-deserved standing ovation, this one complete with whoops and cheers – something I never thought I would hear at a formal orchestra performance. For the remainder of the show I listened as the strings and horns played away, but I just kept thinking about the Naughtons and their amazing performance.

The college-age Madison natives began studying piano when they were just four years old and are continuing to perfect their art. They have an uncanny sense of each other’s movements and groove that makes their performances absolutely astounding. The two are extremely talented musicians, but one can’t help but wonder if their ease of mastering collaborative pieces has anything to do with their relationship to each other.

I was glad I attended this concert as opposed to a typical show at Turner or the Pabst. I had the opportunity to see two young and very talented musicians, and I learned that classical music is definitely not just for the old folks — either on stage or off.

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