Jean-Pierre Rampal Flute Reissue – Urania (2 CDs)

BACH: Suite No. 2 in B Minor, BWV 1067; PERGOLESI: Flute Concerto No. 1 in G Major; Flute Concerto No. 2 in D Major; TELEMANN: Flute Sonata in F Minor; Flute Sonata in B Minor; Flute Sonata in B-flat Major; BENDA: Flute Concerto in E Minor; STAMITZ: Flute Concerto in G Major; ROESSLER: Flute Concerto in D Major – Jean-Pierre Rampal, flute/ Stuttgart Ch. Orch./ Karl Muenchinger/ Robert Veyron-Lacroiz, harpsichord (Telemann)/ Prague Ch. Orch./ Milan Munclinger (Benda)/ Vaclav Neumann (Stamitz)/ Martin Turnovsky (Roessler) – Urania Widescreen Collection WS 121.263 (2 mono & stereo CDs), 72:46, 59:03 [Distr. by Albany] ****:  

To call flautist Jean-Pierre Rampal (1922-2000) perfection hardly seems hyperbole, for he virtually single-handedly, regained for the flute a respect it had not enjoyed since the late Eighteenth Century. Urania has gathered together a select representation of Rampal’s commercial recordings – some of which I recall from my days of collecting Epic Records – between 1955-1962, devoted to Baroque and early Classical repertory, both in concertante and chamber music forms.

In each of the musical selections, we hear Rampal’s sweetly exalted tone, free of the heavy vibrato that often plagues the execution of his contemporaries. The June 1961 Bach Suite No. 2 with Karl Muenchinger (1915-1990) moves briskly, almost glibly, except that every note and musical detail has been realized. Muenchinger had founded the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra, and so the clarity and alert response of ensemble proceeds with elastic, unmannered brio. Muenchinger, too, eschewed romantic excesses in his reading of Bach scores, and so he and Rampal establish a kind Neue Sachlichkeit in Bach interpretation.

Of the two Flute Concertos attributed to Giovanni Pergolesi, the G Major (rec. June, 1961) enjoys the greater sparkle and melodic immediacy.  The second in D Major, also recorded in Geneva, October, 1962, incorporates a galant idiom into its aerial figurations, but with perhaps more  contrivance. Rampal’s seemingly limitless breath-control extends the melodic lines the way a stringed instrument or organ might sustain the effect.

The second movement, Adagio, of the G Major will enchant anyone susceptible to ardent melody in its simplicity and sincerity of expression. The last movement, Allegro spiritoso, deftly combines expressive and bravura playing, much in the style of C.P.E Bach. The D Major Concerto may well be a transcription of trio-sonata, in four movements, the opening Amoroso’s employing a prominent bass line. After a pert Allegro, the Grave movement adds a reflective beauty to the whole, reminiscent of Gluck, with transparent accompaniment on the harpsichord from Germaine Vaucher-Clerc. The Presto finale sounds a bit archaic, like Vivaldi.

Rampal and his veteran partner Robert Veyron-Lacroix (1922-1991) collaborate in Paris, May 1960 for three sonatas by Telemann, that highly capable but often prosaic master. All of these sonatas, however, exhibit a discreet charm, whose subdued virtuosity still permits Rampal his arioso charms and a few moments of bravura. The B Minor Sonata’s Dolce movement may prove a discovery for admirers of Telemann.

The Czech master Franz Benda has a striking work in his E Minor Concerto, recorded in Prague in 1956. Rampal pairs with conductor Milan Munclinger and the Prague Chamber Orchestra, with harpsichord played by Viktorie Svihlikova. Once more, the dynamic contrasts in the opening Allegro con brio owe a debt to C.P.E. Bach. Like the succeeding work by Carl Stamitz, the music indulges in those patented “rocket” figures from the active strings. Each movement except the flighty Presto offers a significant cadenza for Rampal’s bird calls and long-sustained high notes. The Stamitz Concerto in G sounds as if it were composed by Mozart’s talented brother. Veteran Czech conductor Vaclav Neumann (1920-1995) leads a buoyant Prague Chamber Orchestra.

Stamitz’s flourishes all appeal to an operatic, coloratura aria mode. The last movement Rondo imitates a ploy from Mozart’s violin concerto, employing a gavotte as a central section before the return of the spirited da capo that has Rampal in the ionosphere. Franz Anton Roessler (1746-1792) remains little known, but his cleverly fashioned Flute Concerto in D Major (rec. in Prague, 1955) strikes a happily Classical pose (after Mozart’s K. 218 Violin Concerto), and Rampal has the expert Martin Turnovsky’s (b. 1928) leadership of the Prague Chamber Orchestra.

A nice set: it gives you over two hours in good fidelity with the most versatile flute player of the last century whose taste and technique are impeccable.

—Gary Lemco

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