Jean-Pierre Rampal is considered one of the finest flutists of this century. His cool manner, prodigious technique and clear tone have been enjoyed by millions the world over. Unfortunately, these assets became liabilities in his recital yesterday afternoon in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall.
The Variations on "La Follia" by Corelli is a treacherous work, and the contest between Rampal's too-fast tempos and the highly ornamental writing was a split decision. Telemann's Fantasies for Solo Flute are wonderfully inventive pieces. Although the three that Rampal chose (regrettably, all in minor keys) were not all that different in character, he exposed the inner delicacies of the works. I found J.S. Bach's problematic Sonata in B Minor dull, and Rampal's strangely perfunctory performance did not help. John Steele Ritter, however, proved to be a solid harpsichordist.
Poulenc's delicious Sonata for Flute and Piano, premiered in 1957 by Poulenc and Rampal, was probably just as pleasing yesterday as when it was first performed. By far the most fascinating work on the program was the mesmerizing "Bilitis" for Flute and Piano by Debussy. Here, Rampal's austere style and tone were perfect for the gossamer strands of sound coupled with Ritter's lovingly sensitive accompaniment.