If Jean-Pierre Rampal had a bumper sticker, it might read, "I brake for standing ovations." The flute superstar seemed otherwise to be a speed demon Saturday night, as he stopped at nothing to reach dazzling velocity.
Before an overflow crowd in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall--many of them doubtless fans of Rampal's popular jazz recordings--he presented flute and piano works with unflagging brilliance as pianist John Steele Ritter supplied equal pizazz. Rampal tossed off Weber's Sonata in E Flat Major, Op. 10, Beethoven's variations on national airs, Op. 107, Mozart's Sonata in B Flat Major, K. 454, and Czerny's Duo Concertante, Op. 129, with miraculous breath control and torrents of triple-tonguing. All of these pieces were calculated to show off the flute at its most pyrotechnical.
But only occasionally, as in Roussel's pastoral "Joueurs de Flute," Op. 27, did he seem to settle down with the music. In this 1924 piece, he achieved a warm, earthbound tone--his phrasing playful, his attacks deceptively simple.
Rampal brought out the charm and grace of Beethoven's variations, making each set a well-cut gem. The Mozart had moments of well-shaped lyricism before leaping into the usual dazzling runs with Ritter showing himself to be a stylish Mozart interpreter. Borne's Fantasie Brillante sur "Carmen" was fun, but did nothing to relieve the sense of countless notes played faster than a bullet.