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Rampal was born in Marseille, where his father, Joseph Rampal, was the first flutist in the symphony and professor at the conservatory. Although he did not have the motivation to become a professional musician, his father taught him since the young Jean-Pierre was 12 years old. At 16 he won his first prize as a flutist, in the same year he gave his first public recital.
It would not be until much later when Rampal, once he started studying medicine, decided to pursue an artistic career. In his third year in medical school, the Nazi occupation forces sent him to do compulsory work in Germany, but instead of reporting to the service, he went underground and went to Paris. There he decided to take courses at the National Conservatory and five months later he graduated with the first place in the annual flutist competition, a prize that his father Joseph had won before in 1919.
In 1945, Rampal was invited to play a flute concert together with the Paris Opera, in this way he acquired certain fame and experience. During the next ten years Rampal dedicated himself to be a soloist, and, with the war over, it was decided to give a series of concerts starting in France but later, in 1947 moving to Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Spain and the Netherlands along with his fellow pianist Robert Veyron-Lacroix whom he had met in 1946.
In 1955 he became the first flautist of the Opéra de Paris and then developed his activities as a soloist or chamber musician. He founded the Baroque Ensemble of Paris and the French Wind Quintet. At the beginning of the 60s Rampal was considered the most virtuous international flutist, since he worked with the best orchestras in the world at that time, but he continued to revive the music, especially Baroque, as he had done since 1945. During the 60s and until the end of the 80 was very famous, especially in America and Japan. During the decade of the 60s he was even considered the prince of flute players
In 1969 he was appointed professor at the Paris Conservatory and during the summers he offered courses at the International Academy of Nice. He collaborated with other artists such as Isaac Stern, Yehudi Menuhin and Mstislav Rostropovich and directed some orchestras.
In 1978 he won the Sonning Award in Denmark. From 1980 the Jean-Pierre Rampal Flute Competition was opened, which since that year has been awarded to the best flute players in the world.
Rampal was a tireless promoter of the repertoire for flute, especially that of the baroque and classicism. Thanks to his work, the flute regains a place on the concert circuit at the same level as the piano or the violin. He recorded practically all the important works for the instrument, reaching more than 50 albums. He also addressed arrangements and transcripts. He also ventured into jazz, folklore, popular music and oriental music. There were several composers who gave him scores, among others Jolivet, Francaix, Martinon, Poulenc and Boulez, and at the beginning of the 90 he premiered the Concerto for flute by Krzysztof Penderecki.
That way in 1998 and 1999 he gave his last concerts, among them, a great concert in the so-called Theater of the Champs-Elysees in Paris. His last public concert was held at the Villamarta Theater, in Jerez de la Frontera (Spain), on November 26, 1999 at the age of 77 years with Claudi Arimany and Michael Wagemans with works by Bach, Mozart, Kuhlau and Mendelssohn. His last recording in 1999 was of trios and quartets with the trio Pasquier and with his favorite pupil the Catalan flautist Claudi Arimany, continuator of his musical legacy.
In May 2000, Jean-Pierre Rampal dies of a heart problem at 78 years of age.
In 2005, the Jean-Pierre Rampal Association was created to continue the study of the solo flute and as an appreciation of Rampal’s contribution to the interpretation of this instrument.
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