Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown, observed Shakespeare. Yet from the success of flutist Jean Pierre Rampal's concert at Wolf Trap yesterday afternoon, his throne is more than secure.
Despite the efforts of such regal flutists as James Galway and Paula Robison, Rampal remains the "emperor of flutists."
His program yesterday drew an immense, appreciative crowd to Wolf Trap; In fact, the crowd was too appreciative -- applauding at times between movements and sometimes not letting Rampal finish a note before the end of a piece.
It was all in good humor, though, as Rampal imperially traversed a program of Vivaldi, Telemann, Bach, Archangelo Corelli, Schubert and Jindrich Feld, plus an assortment of encores by Chopin, Johann Ludwig Krebs and Jacques Ibert.
Each work was played by Rampal with the highest sense of elegance. Indeed, everything he touched was done in the finest manner, and his reading of three of Georg Phillip Telemann's solo fantasies for flute was particularly searching and musically penetrating.
Rampal's is a very individual manner of playing. His tone, at once penetrating, can instantly descend into a haunting mezzo voce . His complete command of a singing legato was very much evident in the second movement of Bach's D Minor Sonata for Flute, which he played with a languid dolce .
Rampal caught the pointed irony of Schubert's 1824 "Arpeggione" Sonata in a transcription for the flute. Wisely, his accompanist, John Steele Ritter, played with the piano lid down, since the flute can hardly match an army of 88. Appropriately, Ritter used the harpsichord in the Baroque pieces.