Jean-Pierre Rampal | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Jean-Pierre Rampal 

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JEAN-PIERRE RAMPAL

At 75, flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal could deservedly rest on his laurels. Over the course of his lengthy and prolific career (which stretches back to the waning days of World War II, when he forsook medicine for a higher calling) the Marseilles-born Rampal has made the flute an instrument to reckon with, vastly expanding its repertoire and paving the way for other superstar pipers like James Galway. But even as his recording labels are issuing compilations of his greatest hits (topped by an 11-CD set from Sony), he shows no signs of slowing down. His playing is as spry, suave, and unforced as ever, largely free of the cloyingness or flightiness that hinders other flutists with a similar grasp of technique. His trademark breath control, which often allows him to sustain long notes until they're the tiniest of whispers, is still much intact and amply demonstrated on his just-released Romantic Music for Two Flutes and Piano, on Delos. Then there's the bright, warm tone of his 18-carat golden flute (made in Shanghai, circa 1870)--one that he knows well how to handle whether in a serene Mozart andante or through a fast-paced Franz Doppler trifle. He's been credited with rescuing from obscurity a trove of enchanting Baroque pieces, not the least of which are the graceful dance tunes of Jean-Philippe Rameau, and composers as disparate as Poulenc and Boulez have written new music for him. At this recital, it's Rampal the patrician crowd pleaser--not Rampal the new-music champion--who'll be showcased (though it's safe to say he won't stoop to Galway's level of grandstanding). His potpourri program, during which he'll be partnered as called for by disciple Claudi Arimany, includes the familiar (trios by Telemann and Bach), the intriguing (a trio by the Pla Brothers, who flourished in 18th-century Spain), and the featherweight (a fantasy on themes from Verdi's Un ballo en maschera). Accompanying on harpsichord and piano is longtime Rampal sidekick John Steele Ritter. Sunday, 7:30 PM, Orchestra Hall, 220 S. Michigan; 312-294-3000. TED SHEN

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Christian Steiner.

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