MUSIC REVIEWS : Flutist Rampal Satisfies Fans

Lucky man, Jean-Pierre Rampal, to have retained the loyalty of an audience that first noticed him over three decades ago and to have that audience pass on its appreciation of his artistry to a subsequent generation.

This thought seemed particularly pertinent when observing the parents who brought children, including a surprising number of attentive preteens, to Ambassador Auditorium on Saturday for a daunting program by the revered French flutist and his trusty colleague, harpsichordist John Steele Ritter: seven sonatas by J. S. and C.P.E. Bach.

Not to belabor the obvious, a 72-year-old (the robust-looking Rampal reached that age a few weeks ago) is not a 40-year-old. There was some effortful playing on this occasion, exemplified chiefly in smudged--but never faked--passages in the more convoluted allegros.

But the Rampal tone, particularly in slow movements, is as appealing as ever: firm, rounded, richly varied within the natural scope of the instrument’s capabilities which, in fact, Rampal has redefined and expanded for modern audiences and for other flutists.


Then, too, this old master showed that he is not content to repeat hoary interpretive formulas. His ornamentation, in repeats and elsewhere, exhibited lively imagination and a familiarity with Baroque practice rare among senior virtuosi.

Still, one might have wished for the presence of a continuo cello in certain works to add timbral variety and, possibly, to elicit some rhythmic daring from the accomplished but somewhat rigid Ritter.

But let’s not get picky. This was an evening for Rampal initiates and their progeny, and they were clearly satisfied.