Considered the father figure of the 20th century flute renaissance, Jean-Pierre Rampal was the first flutist to attract worldwide audiences equal to those drawn by virtuoso pianists and string players. With his numerous performances, recordings, premieres, and commissions, he has figured prominently in restoring the instrument to the exalted position it held during the 18th century.
Born in Marseilles, France, in 1923, Rampal began studying the flute with his father and at age 15 won first prize in the Marseilles Conservatory competition. Rampal was in his third year of medical school when the Nazi occupation forces drafted him for compulsory labor in Germany. He went underground instead and journeyed to Paris, where he attended Gaston Crunelle’s classes at the Conservatoire and graduated with first prize in flute five months later.
In 1946 Rampal created the Quintette à vent français with oboist Pierre Pierlot, and the same year, made his first formal recording, the Mozart D Major Quartet with the Pasquier Trio. He also began a 35-year association with harpsichordist and pianist Robert Veyron-Lacroix, with whom he toured the musical capitals of the world. Two years later he formed the Ensemble Baroque de Paris; in 1949 he joined the Paris Opéra Orchestra.
Rampal made his U.S. recital debut in 1958 at the Library of Congress in Washington, premiering the Poulenc sonata. Among the other works he has premiered are the concertos of Jindřich Feld, André Jolivet, David Diamond, and Ezra Laderman, Leonard Bernstein’s Halil, and Claude Bolling’s two suites for flute and jazz piano. The many pieces dedicated to Rampal include the flute concertos of Jean Françaix, Jean Martinon, Jean Rivier, and Henri Tomasi.
Rampal is perhaps the most recorded classical instrumentalist in history. Many of his recordings have been awarded the Grand Prix du Disque. The French government has named him a Commandeur de la Légion d’Honneur, an Officier des Arts et des Lettres, and a Commandeur de l’Ordre National du Mérite.