Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Concerto in C for flute, harp and orchestra, K299* [21:28]
Georg Philipp TELEMANN (1681-1767)
Concerto in G for flute, strings and basso continuo [10:38]
Suite in A minor for flute, strings and basso continuo [24:50]
Jean-Pierre Rampal (flute); Lily Laskine (harp)*
Orchestre de Chambre Jean-François Paillard /Jean-François Paillard*
Orchestre de Chambre de la Sarre/Karl Ristenpart
rec. 1956-58. ADD.

These classic recordings deserved to be preserved, though Jean-Pierre Rampal re-recorded the Mozart Flute and Harp Concerto (several times) and the Telemann Suite in A minor. It must be noted, too, that the Rampal-Laskine version of the Mozart is also available on the Documents label (232752, 2 CDs for about £13) and their 1964 remake is on Erato (with Jacques Lancelot in the Clarinet Concerto, 5046661722, around £5, also Warner Classics Mozart Violin Concertos and Concertos for Wind, 5 CDs, 2564623332 – see review).

The Flute and Harp Concerto is one of Mozart’s most enticing works – surely he can’t have hated the flute as much as he claimed – and it has received a considerable number of fine recordings. As this recording is presented as an historic document, there’s not much point in making comparisons. Taken on its own merits, I found it very enjoyable, with Rampal and Laskine almost ideal partners, though at times I had some reservations, as at the very end of the first movement, which I thought just a little too scrambled. The ethereal performance of the slow movement more than compensates.

The recording of the Mozart is quite acceptable, especially of the solo instruments, though one could hardly mistake its tubby timbre for anything much more recent than its date of 1958, all the more noticeable for being transferred at a high level. Indeed, for all the Istituto’s prowess in this regard, I’ve recently heard several Beulah refurbishments of recordings from around that period which sounded much better.

The Telemann Flute Concerto follows hard upon the heels of the Mozart – too hard, in fact, when the acoustic and recording quality are markedly different. In fact, the sound is brighter and better here than in the Mozart of two years later. The performance is sprightly and still sounds well, even now that we look for greater authenticity in recordings of Telemann. Ristenpart was to go on to make a number of stylish recordings of Telemann’s music at a time when it was still thought necessary to apologise for performing his music. As Ristenpart and others were to prove, it isn’t Telemann who is dull and dutiful, it’s the fault of the way that his music had been performed.

The final work, the Telemann Suite in A minor, is far better known than the Flute Concerto. Once again Ristenpart offers stylish accompaniment by the standards of the time and the recording does justice to the performance. I thought the opening of the Ouverture a little too stately but thereafter everything goes (mostly) with a swing and I found the whole performance most enjoyable – the best part of the CD for my money.

Again, I’m not going to make comparisons except to note that the tempi which Rampal and Ristenpart adopt are broadly comparable with those of Peter Holtslag (recorder), The Parley of Instruments and Roy Goodman* on an inexpensive Hyperion Helios CD (CDH55091 – see my May 2010 Download Roundup). In Les plaisirs (tr.8) Rampal almost sounds too fast and in danger of coming off the track, though his 2:28 against Holtslag’s 3:23 is partly attributable to shortening of repeats, as again in Réjouissance (tr.11). His time of 7:08 for the Air à l’Italienne (tr.9) is defensible, but I prefer a faster tempo here.

The booklet is something of a disgrace – it’s devoid of notes apart from the track details and timings; no TWV numbers are given for the Telemann, and Karl Ristenpart is consistently mis-spelled as ‘Ristempart’. The opening movement of the Telemann Flute Concerto (tr.4) is labelled ‘Alelgro ma non troppo’ and the Ouverture of the Suite in a minor is printed as ‘Ouvertutre’. These are careless typos of the kind which I make all too frequently in first drafts, and which should have been corrected.

There seems to be a discrepancy concerning timings: though my decks confirm the claimed 65:02, adding up the individual tracks comes up with a figure more like 55 minutes.

This wouldn’t be my first recommendation, then, for any of these three works, but it does offer a welcome reminder of Rampal’s achievements at an earlier date than other existing recordings, and it mostly does so in decent sound, though the Mozart requires some tolerance and the presentation is very poor. A bit of a mixed blessing.

* My review of this recording lists Peter Holman as sole conductor: in fact, he conducts only the Concerto, with Roy Goodman at the helm for the Suite.

Brian Wilson

Useful as a reminder of Rampal’s early recordings, but something of mixed blessing.