When Jean-Pierre Rampal began his career, great things were predicted for the future of the flute. But individual charisma and technique have accomplished only so much--where is the repertory?
Rampal's latest local recital, Monday evening, sponsored by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, featured violin sonatas and other arrangements, plus bonbons. And nothing more recent than a Joplin rag, offered in encore.
The conservatism is characteristic, and has certainly done Rampal no harm in terms of personal popularity. One does not need to be a cynic to suggest that it was precisely the prospect of so much bright, bubbling music that filled the Music Center Pavilion.
Best was Dvorak's Sonatina in G. The French flutist gave it abundant sparkle and an uncommonly poignant Larghetto. He could also give Muhammad Ali lessons in bobbing and weaving, though here at least the distractions were solely visual.
Part of the problem with violin music for the flute is the importance it places on the lower register, even after the necessary juggling to avoid the lowest notes has been done. Rampal had agility to spare for the high altitude scampers in a Sonata in C by Weber and Mozart's Sonata in A, K. 305, but at the low end his tone emerged hoarse and unfocused.
In these pieces Rampal benefited, as he usually has for the last decade, from the alert, supple accompaniments of John Steele Ritter, although the pianist could do nothing about the occasional misintonation. In Hummel's "Grand Rondeau Brillant," it was often Rampal supporting Ritter, proving that there were 20 fleet, flashy fingers on stage, and not just 10.
In a set of variations on "Carnival in Venice," it was all Rampal. The giddy bravura drew heavy applause, but the following encore, Ravel's "Piece en forme de Habanera," offered the most sensitive, sophisticated playing of the evening. Chopin and Joplin arrangements concluded the event.