Jean-Pierre Rampal was one of the most significant flute soloists of the 20th century, bringing the flute into newfound terrain as a solo instrument. He recorded extensively during his long and fruitful career and his discography consists of a broad repertoire from Baroque to contemporary music and from folk music to jazz. French composersPoulenc and Jolivet, composed works for him and he worked extensively with the jazz musician Claude Bolling. He was responsible for bringing a prominence to the flute as a solo instrument that had not been equalled since the 18th century.
Rampal was born in Marseille in the south coast of France. His father was a flute teacher but persuaded him to study medicine. After attending Marseille Medical School for a number of years, he was drafted into a German labour camp during World War II. He eventually moved to Paris and began his flute studies at the Paris Conservatoire. He rose to prominence after winning the school’s most prestigious competition and after the war, his flute career began.
He was very passionate about chamber music, founding the French Wind Quintet in 1945. Rampal played flute in the Vichy Opéra from 1947 to ‘51 and he joined the orchestra of the Paris Opéra in 1956 where he remained for six years. In the late 1960s he became one of the professors of the Paris Conservatoire.
In his autobiography Rampal referred to his “enormous discography, one that I can’t even keep track of myself.” Rampal’s most significant recordings include 100 recordings for the French record label Erato, several of which were released for the US market on the RCA Red Seal label. He recorded the core flute repertoire ofMozart, Handel, Beethoven and others. In 1979 he signed an exclusive contract with what is nowSony Classical, which led to another 60 albums. One of these significant collaborations was withZubin Mehta <> and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.
Rampal often appeared on television and radio, including in a TV appearance together with Francis Poulenc, playing the Poulenc flute sonata. In 1983 he was featured in a BBC Radio 4 documentary entitled “Rampal – Prince of Flute Players”.
Jean-Pierre Rampal received state honours: Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur (1966) and Officer de la Légion d’Honneur (1979). He was also awarded the Grande Médaille de la Ville Paris in 1987 and he received the Trophée des Arts from the Franco-American French Institute Alliance Française "for bridging French and American Cultures through his magnificent music.
Jean-Pierre Rampal died in 2000. The French president Jacques Chirac stated: “his flute spoke to the heart. A light in the musical world has just flickered out.” Isaac Stern recalled: "Working with him was pure pleasure, sheer joy, exuberance. He was one of the great musicians of our time, who really changed the world's perception of the flute as a solo instrument." At his funeral, his contemporaries made tributes to him, performing the Adagio fromBoismortier’s Second Flute Concerto in A minor, signifying Rampal’s lifelong commitment to early music and to the repertoire of Boismortier in particular.