From my modest knowledge of German, the album title can be translated
as With Fire and Passion. Two young musicians, Sebastian
Theile and Nicholas Rimmer, give us an excellent presentation
of four beautiful and diverse works for clarinet and piano.
This is a real duo, as the piano has good presence, more than
in some clarinet-centered recordings. The effect is further
helped by the perfect balance found by the recording engineer.
The sound of Theile’s clarinet is rather sharp and concentrated.
The piano sound is also very clearly pronounced. The performers
transcend mere technical brilliance and imbue the music with
In the first movement of Weber’s Grand Duo Theile
and Rimmer have all the necessary bravura, and yet are gentle
in the gentle places. Although fast, the playing is not aggressive,
and is very sympathetic. The viscous sadness of the operatic
second movement is heartfelt. Theile does very well in the difficult
task of playing those long, long notes expressively. Rimmer
creates the dark atmosphere, and is intense and powerful in
the dramatic outbursts. The cheerful Rondo is light and bouncy,
its golden note-spinning well articulated. I am sure that Weber
himself would have loved this performance.
The two Reger’s miniatures also combine virtuosity with
lyrical feeling. Albumblatt, under a pastoral cover,
hides tightly compressed emotion. Tarantella is more
energetic, propelled by the rhythm. It is essentially a short,
agitated scherzo. The two instruments weave around each other
like the two strains of DNA.
Lutosławski declared his Dance Preludes to be his
farewell to folklore. This is the last work he created in an
idiom based on Polish folk music, before he firmly turned to
the avant-garde. The work is based on songs from Northern Poland.
These are preludes in the tradition of Chopin: each is a compact
elaboration of a mood or a short idea. Playful fast parts are
followed by pensive slow ones. The performance is very affectionate.
I don’t think this music would shine on its own in a less
involved presentation, but in Theile and Rimmer it finds real
The two instruments blend perfectly in Poulenc’s Sonata.
The first movement is muscular and youthful. The slow episode
opens with terrifying shrillness, which leads to wistful yearning
and sadness. In the second movement, again, Theile knows how
to play the long notes so that they are alive and breathing.
The tempo is quite fast, but the emotion is throbbing, and the
simple melody speaks directly to the soul. This is a very beautiful,
poignant reading. The sonata and the disc end on an optimistic
note: the third movement returns to a friendly unbuttoned humor,
although with some romantic thoughts woven in.
I wish the disc contained more: with only 50 minutes of total
time, it is far from munificent. The liner-note also is rather
economical in the description of the music, although the performer
biographies are apt. Nevertheless, the performances are truly
excellent, and combine technical prowess with fire and passion,
just as the title of the album promises.