It is no pleasure to report that the color of Jean Pierre Rampal's suit on Saturday evening seems to have left more of an imprint than his playing. The jazzy trim on his full-dress attire -- the lapels, pants stripe and tails' lining were all maroon satin -- still vibrates in the inner eye, while the inner ear has little to celebrate.
Perhaps Rampal was simply having an off night. The purity and elegance of his playing on a previous visit (which does, by the way, still echo in this listener's memory) were only intermittently in evidence. The clarity of his sound was continuously punctured by small rough spots, all the more noticeable when compared with his usual clean attack. Though some phrases were shaped with beguiling grace, far too many, particularly in the Franck sonata, received an almost routine treatment.
The first half of the program -- and by far the most effective -- was devoted to Bach and Telemann with accompanist John Steele Ritter at the harpsichord. The light, agile touch and restrained approach of both Rampal and Ritter proved effective in the baroque style, particularly in a Telemann sonata, to which they imparted a fresh bounce. The youthful sense of wonder Rampal brought to the work's first movement provided the only truly inspired moments of the evening.