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Music Reviews : Rampal at Ambassador

February 26, 1988|RICHARD JENSEN

Claude Debussy's instrumental "Chansons de Bilitis"--which later became "Six epigraphes antiques"--begins with an invocation of Pan. What better person for the job than flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal, who played this and other works Wednesday night at Ambassador Auditorium.

The program featured a variety of styles, from the high baroque grandeur of J.S. Bach's Trio Sonata, BWV 526, to the moody Sonata by Francis Poulenc.

Rampal's complete mastery of the instrument was best displayed in the more recent works following intermission.

In Debussy's suite, arranged here for flute and piano, the flutist created a gallery of exotic images, drawing from a full palette of tone colors. The scene closed with the most gentle and controlled pianissimo imaginable.

Bartok's suite of Hungarian Peasant Songs--originally for solo piano--retained its earthy character and youthful vigor.

The Poulenc sonata belongs in a sense to Rampal, who first performed the work with the composer as accompanist at its world premiere. It sounded equally fresh 30 years later.

The first half of the concert was less successful. Rampal seemed bored with J.C.F. Bach's Sonata in D, which he finished off in record time. Works by his brother, Carl Philipp Emanuel, and father, Johann Sebastian, provided an additional illustration of a style of playing sometimes called sewing-machine Bach.

John Steele Ritter accompanied more than adequately on harpsichord and piano. He even stole the show--for a moment, at least--in Mozart's variations on "Helas j'ai perdu mon amant," K. 360.

The audience remained for two encores: Claude Bolling's "Sentimentale" and Chopin's "Minute" Waltz.

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