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Flutist Rampal Retains Art, Technique

July 19, 1996|CHRIS PASLES

Flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal made his first Hollywood Bowl appearance Wednesday since canceling a date last summer due to illness and undergoing knee surgery earlier this year. Perhaps as a concession to all that, both he and flute-colleague Claudi Arimany sat on stools. They shared the stage with Rampal's longtime accompanist, John Steele Ritter.

At 74, Rampal, who was troubled by a cough, does not play as he did 40 years ago, though much art and technique remain. His tone was woody and mellow, but occasional sustained notes lacked body and passage-work emerged smudged.

Arimany commanded a brighter tone and played with more dynamic variety. Both he and the supportive Ritter remained self-effacing partners. The amplification system served the flutists well, though it couldn't overcome an unusually high number of aircraft fly-bys.

The most lovely and songful playing occurred in the slow movement of Juan Bautista Pla's Trio in D minor. The most virtuosic fireworks came in Luigi Hugues' "Grand Concert Fantasy" on themes from Verdi's "Un Ballo in Maschera," one of those sincere if awful 19th century arrangements or "paraphrases," in which opera tunes were progressively embroidered to the point of parody.

Albert Franz Doppler performed a similar and quaint operation on the national anthem, "Yankee Doodle Dandy" and two other patriotic pieces in his "Duettino Americain," also offered on the program.

The most misjudged stylistic decision was to play three Scott Joplin rags. The gentle but insistent syncopation of the melody against the bass line, which is the heart of ragtime, just didn't come off in these arrangements by Ritter. At times, in low-lying parts of "The Entertainer," the music seemed ragged indeed.

Works by the terminally boring Georg Philipp Telemann, as well as by the historical relics Friedrich Kulhau and Carl Czerny, completed the program.

Menzel's arrangement of the Andante from Mozart's Sonata for two Pianos, K. 448, was the single encore.

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