Jean-Pierre Rampal, the gray eminence of the flute world, does not avoid the showy gymnastics that pervade the repertoire for his instrument, but he bases his artistry on more substantial stuff. His program Sunday in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall drew on his ability to sustain long lines of supported lyricism and to attend to details of style and idiom.
A sonata by Devienne and the Third Concert in A Major from "Pieces de Clavecin en Concert" by Rameau were elegant in their mannered reading. Rampal underplayed the rhythmic archness that is so often the focal point of performances of this music and concentrated instead on momentum and on the shape of each phrase. Harpsichordist John Steele Ritter added splendid attention to ornamentation, and together the two enjoyed ideal ensemble. This was particularly evident in the Rameau "La Timide," where Rampal's muted flute effect was a perfect match for the harpsichord buff stop.
A Bach sonata and a lovely sonata by Martinu got more straightforward handling. The Martinu is wonderfully idiomatic for the flute, simple and refreshingly unself-conscious.
National Symphony principal flutist Toshiko Kohno joined Rampal for a Kuhlau "Grand Trio" and the "Rigoletto Fantasie" by Doppler, played with delicious rubato and with the sort of meeting of minds that hasn't been heard much since the Oistrakhs, father-and-son violinists, played Bach together years ago.