The Naughton Twins Dynamic Duo Debut

Review by: Jed Distler

Artistic Quality: 8

Sound Quality: 10

Since their 2008 debut, the Curtis Institute-trained Naughton twins have been showcasing their piano-duo wares in concert and now on their first CD produced by Radio Bremen and released on Orfeo. They bring out all of the Mendelssohn Allegro brilliant’s requisite bravura without pushing the music into overdrive as they execute the rapid runs and broken passages between hands with fluidity and ease. The Brahms Haydn Variations stands out for well-unified tempos, a lovely, disembodied quality to the minor-key variation, and the cogent projection of Variation 5’s cross-rhythmic phrases, although other variations prove not as well characterized (No. 2 is underplayed and slightly metronomic, for example).

If anything, the Mozart sonata reveals more supple passagework and playful repartée between the pianists, although I do miss the first-movement exposition repeat and the elegant simplicity that distinguishes Perahia/Lupu’s Molto allegro. Unlike the imposing James Levine/Evgeny Kissin Schubert Lebensstüme from Carnegie Hall, the Naughtons wisely pare down the repeats and achieve a more intimately scaled balance by playing the work on one piano as intended. They bring lots of color and inner lilt to Falla’s delightful Danza española No. 1, despite a tempo that is arguably too fast.

In an era where more and more pianists joyride through Ravel’s La valse, one welcomes the Naughton twins’ careful scaling of climaxes and disciplined articulation of glissandos and big unison chords. Much as I enjoy the live Argerich/Kovacevich Lutoslawski Paganini Variations for its joyful spontaneity, studio conditions allow the Naughtons to further polish this little gem to uncover even more sparkle in the opening variations and final pages. In all, a very fine release, and the beautifully balanced, judiciously resonant sonics are of audiophile quality.



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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: Mozart Sonata: Perahia/Lupu (Sony)

Felix Mendelssohn: Allegro brilliant in A major Op. 92
Johannes Brahms: Variations on a Theme by Haydn Op. 52b
W.A. Mozart: Sonata for Two Pianos in D major K. 448
Franz Schubert: Lebensstüme D 947
Manuel de Falla: Danza española No. 1 from La vida breve
Maurice Ravel: La valse
Witold Lutoslawski: Variations on a Theme by Paganini


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