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Jean-Pierre Rampal...
was the first flutist in history to attract international attention and large audiences comparable to those of virtuoso pianists and string players. From the very beginning, his career was key to restoring the instrument to the exalted position it held during the eighteenth century. In his 1989 memoirs
"Musique, Ma Vie"
("Music, My Love", Random House),
he wrote about how inconceivable it was in the 1940's to have a flutist who was not a member of the orchestra come and perform a concerto with the group. He modestly remarks that he was not unacquainted with the process which institutionalized the practice and led to today's expectation of solo flutists as regular, international concert tour fare. Later, Rampal also gained recognition as a conductor.

Born in Marseilles in 1922 , Jean-Pierre Rampal's father Joseph was principal flutist of the Marseilles Symphony and professor of flute at the Conservatory. His mother oriented him towards a career in medicine. His father did not encourage him to become a professional flutist but gave him lessons during his childhood. The turning point came under rather dramatic circumstances during the second world war. While in his third year of medical school, he was drafted for compulsory labor in Germany by the Nazi occupation forces. Unwilling to submit, he went underground and escaped to Paris.


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In Paris, he attended classes at the National Conservatory and graduated with first prize in flute playing five months later. He earned his living recording works by composers like Milhaud and Schoenberg who were banned at that time. At the Conservatory, he also met the soloists who later became his companions in the "Quintette à Vent Français" and the "Ensemble Baroque de Paris".

After the liberation of Paris, he abandoned medicine forever to pursue a dual career as first flutist with the Paris Opera and solo flutist performing recitals on the radio and, with harpsichordist, Robert Veyron-Lacroix, touring the musical capitals of Europe. The other virtuosos from this era that he collaborated with were oboist Pierre Pierlot, basoonists Maurice Allard and Paul Hongne, clarinetist Jacques Lancelot, and violinist Robert Gendre. Together, they piloted the reconquest of the baroque répertoire which was undergoing a renaissance in the late 1950's. Riding the crest of this renewed interest, Rampal did extensive research on the baroque period at the Bibliotheque National, uncovering dozens of unknown flute concerti and chamber works. In parallel, he played many duets with harpist Lily Laskine. Numerous recordings from these earlier years appeared on the Erato label
.

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