Sakura Salon 2/23/14 – Jean-Pierre Rampal

Tonight, instead of one particular work, we concentrate on one artist with a widely varying range of music.

Jean-Pierre Louis Rampal (7 January 1922 – 20 May 2000) was a French flautist. He has been personally “credited with returning to the flute the popularity as a solo classical instrument it had not held since the 18th century”, and that is why I decided this could be an interesting subject for a Salon.

Rampal was one of history’s greatest flute players, and among the most recorded classical artists of all time. His father was the first flutist of the Marseilles Symphony Orchestra and was professor of flute at the Conservatory there. Although his father taught him to play the flute, he did not recommend a musical career for Jean-Pierre, who instead entered medical studies. He was in the third year of medical study when, in 1943, German occupying forces drafted Rampal for service in the military. He learned that he was, in fact, to be sent to Germany as forced labor. So he went absent without leave and joined the underground, traveling to Paris and assuming a new identity. In Paris, he decided to attend the National Conservatory as a flute student. Five months later he graduated with first prize. Paris was liberated a few months later, and Rampal was appointed first flutist with the Paris Vichy Opéra.

In 1950 Rampal embarked on a touring career. His favored accompanist was Robert Veyron-Lacroix, who could play both piano and harpsichord. Veyron-Lacroix’s expertise helped Rampal deepen his performances of music of the eighteenth century — his favorite musical era — by drawing on contemporary performance practices. He eschewed the vibrato and the generally romantic sound of most flute playing, and in so doing he strongly influenced flutists of subsequent generations. In 1956 he joined the orchestra of the Paris Opéra, remaining there through 1962. During this period he appeared frequently on the radio in Paris, gaining great popularity. He taught at the Paris Conservatory and gave master classes around the world.

Rampal was devoted to chamber music, founding the French Wind Quintet (Quintette à Vent Française) in 1945 and the Ensemble Baroque de Paris in 1953. He appeared with every major orchestra, gave recitals worldwide, and recorded prolifically, covering all of the standard flute repertoire and many new and unknown pieces. Several of his recordings have won the Grand Prix du Disques.

Even beyond these endeavors his musical interests were quite diverse: he also appeared on recordings of English folksong, American ragtime, European jazz, and Japanese, Chinese, and Indian classical music. Some of his recording partners were Mstislav RostropovichClaude BollingRavi Shankar, and Isaac Stern. Numerous composers wrote works for him, including Francis PoulencPierre BoulezAndré Jolivet, and Jean Françaix. His Music, My Love: An Autobiography was published in 1989. Rampal received various honors, including elevation to the ranks of Chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur (1996), Officier des Arts et Lettres (1971), Commandeur de l’Ordre National de Mérite. He also received the Prix du Président de la République, and the Prix du Académie Charles Cros.

Although he loved and recorded a so much Baroque music, I only included a bit of that here tonight (though I wanted to find his recording of the Handel flute sonatas, which I used to own and love, I had a hard time finding an mp3 recording, or even a reasonably priced CD.)

Instead, I went with a wide variety of music, showing Rampal’s versatility and also trying to introduce a some very good music tonight.

We do start with Baroque, with something a bit unusual, works for solo flute, unaccompanied.

Georg Philipp Telemann‘s 12 Fantasias for Solo Flute were published in Hamburg in 1732–33. This is one of Telemann’s collections of music for unaccompanied instruments, the others being thirty-six fantasias for solo harpsichord published in Hamburg in 1732–33, twelve for solo violinpublished in 1735, and a set of twelve fantasias for solo viola da gamba, published in the same year, but that is currently lost.

Telemann’s solo flute fantasias are alone in the entire Baroque repertoire to include movements seemingly impossible on flute: fugues (fantasias 2, 6, and 8–11), a French overture (fantasia 7) and a passacaglia (fantasia 5).

Tonight we will listen to two of the five Fantasies:

1. Fantasia in A major (Vivace—Allegro)

5. Fantasia in C major (Presto—Largo—Presto—Dolce—Allegro—Allegro)

Next we come to something completely different, a work written for Rampal himself in 1973 by Claude Bolling, the Suite for Flute and Jazz Piano Trio is a suite of seven songs, written for a classical flute, and a jazz piano trio (pianostring bass, and drums).  In this recording we hear Rampal on the flute and the pianist is the composer, Claude Bolling.

This suite is  a composition that secured Bolling the nickname of ‘the French Gershwin’ and premiered at Carnegie Hall in 1975 to much acclaim. Interestingly, this work juxtaposes the key and formal structures of baroque music with the freer modulations, rhythm and tonality of several varieties of jazz styles.  This work is a case of neither real jazz nor real baroque and the fascinating, and sometimes clashing possibilities, of the collective sound are quite unique.

Listen for how Rampal phrases his music, and how he sometimes plays like the piano, and sometimes how teh two sound like one instrument.

Baroque and Blue





Versatile (with bass flute)


Lastly, something very different once again, Sakura – Japanese Melodies for Flute and Harp.

This was commissioned by Japan Columbia and recorded in France, with special arrangements made by Akio Yashiro, a prominent Japanese composer, for Rampal and his frequent collaborator, the eminent harpist Lily Laskine.  Most of the song on this album dates from the Meiji Restoration onwards, when Japanese composers had learned Western harmony.

Since we don’t have time for the entire album, I will play a number of the pieces tonight.

    1. Haru No Umi (Michio Miyagi) – Wikipedia
      • This was omposed by Michio Miyagi (1894-1956), who is noted for his koto music compositions of the Ikuta School.   The piece is normally performed on a shakuhatchi (a wooden flute) with koto accompaniment.   The composer was well-studied in Western music and is considered the founder of modern Japanese music.   Haru No Umi is considered his best-known composition.
    2. Chugoku Chiho No Komori Uta (traditional, arrangement by Kosaku Yamada)
      • This is an old Japanese melody, passed down from antiquity.   In this arrangement by Kosaku Yamada (1886-1965) the melody has achieved even greater popularity than the original, and with Itsuki No Komori Uta, from the Kyush region, is considered one of the finest representatives of the Japanese lullaby.
    3. Chin-Chin Chidori (Hidemaro Konoe)
      • This was first published in the third year of the Showa Era (1928).   The composer enjoyed an international reputation as an orchestra conductor, and Chin-Chin Chidori is one of the most familiar of Japanese songs.   Set to verses by Hakushu Kitahara, it is meant to be performed in the style of a simple folksong.
    4. Defune (Haseo Sugiyama)
      • This song composed by Haseo Sugiyama (1889-1952), is one of the most beloved of all Japanese songs.   The lyrics are by Kogetsu Katsuta, and the work dates from the eleventh year of the Showa Era.   The composer was a popular violinist who excelled in composing music that expressed the more melancholy side of the Japanese temperment, as in this song about boats leaving harbor.
    5. Hanayome Ningyo (Haseo Sugiyama)
      • This was composed to lyrics by Koji Fukiwa and was published in the twelfth year of the Taisho Era.   Its theme is that of the bride-doll that children play with and the deep emotions of the departing daughter, a bride-to-be, and the mother who must give her up.
    6. Kojo No Tsuki (Rentaro Taki) – Wikipedia
      • This is the work of Rentaro Tuki (1879-1903) who is credited with being the first major composer of the Meiji Era.   Taki studied at the Leipzig Music Conservatory in Germany but returned to Japan to die at the age of 24.   The lyrics for Kojo No Tsuki, in four stanzas, were written by Bansui Tsuchii.
    7. Hana (Rentaro Taki)
      • This was composed in the 33rd year of the Meiji Era and was originally a three-part-harmony song.   Its verses, by Hagoromo Takeshina, presented four themes: Flower, Cool Breeze, Moon, and Snow.   Hana (flower) has become a familiar melody, particularly favored by young Japanese girls.
    8. Sakura Sakura (traditional) – Wikipedia includes lyrics and translation
      • This is an old Japanese song that is sung throughout the land to welcome spring.   Like the waxing and waning of the four seasons, this song is a treasured part of the Japanese art and culture and is favored by young and old alike.   In this version, Lily Laskine assumes the part usually played on the koto, while Jean-Pierre Rampal provides a kind of obbligato comment on the flute, often producing high and low tones very close in sound to the traditional Japanese flute.