C1553. KURT MASUR Cond. Boston S.O.: Il Giorno Felice - Overture (Cimarosa); Dante Symphony - Inferno; Purgatorio (Liszt); w. JEAN-PIERRE RAMPAL: Flute Concerto #2 in D, K.314 (Mozart). (Canada) St Laurent Studio YSL T-513, Live Performance, 23 July, 1982, Tanglewood Music Festival. Transfers by Yves St Laurent.
"Kurt Masur, the music director emeritus of the New York Philharmonic, who was credited with transforming the orchestra from a sullen, lackluster ensemble into one of luminous renown, was the Philharmonic’s music director from 1991 to 2002. When he took its helm, the orchestra was roundly considered to be a world-class ensemble in name only, its playing grown slipshod, its players fractious and discontented, its recording contracts unrenewed. The selection of Mr. Masur to lead the Philharmonic astounded nearly everyone in classical music circles. A specialist in the music of Central European composers — notably Beethoven, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Mahler and Bruckner — he had built a respectable if not scintillating career amid the musical and political repressions of East Germany. He could bring a meticulous if somewhat dictatorial approach to rehearsal discipline, something that New York’s unruly orchestra was widely thought to need.
Mr. Masur made his formal debut as the Philharmonic’s music director — in a program featuring Bruckner, John Adams and Aaron Copland — on Sept. 11, 1991. But he had impressed the critics even before his tenure began. Over the 11-year marriage that followed, Mr. Masur would bring to the Philharmonic a restored musical vigor; new recording contracts and regular radio exposure; a populist approach that helped expand its graying, rarefied audience; and a determination to improve the dubious acoustics of Avery Fisher Hall, its longtime home. He also brought to the podium the ardent conviction that music-making was a moral act that could heal the world. It was a belief he had put into spectacular public practice in 1989, when Communism in East Germany began to crumble and he used his singular renown there to avert bloodshed. Mr. Masur would put it into practice again, memorably and movingly, in a New York ravaged by the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The music directorship of any major orchestra entails a delicate counterpoint of democracy and despotism. At first, many players viewed Mr. Masur’s relentless work ethic — and his musical criticisms unsoftened by politesse — as a form of tyranny. What was widely agreed was that the Philharmonic’s sound changed for the better almost instantly. After the mud of the Mehta era, the Masur sound was like a mountain stream. The difference was startling. One could go hear the Philharmonic play a Schumann or Brahms symphony without wincing. One could even anticipate a ‘St. Matthew Passion’ or Beethoven Ninth, not only with complete assurance but a real sense of occasion.
Mr. Masur’s imperious behavior was occasionally directed toward audiences. In a widely reported incident from the winter of 1998, he walked off the Avery Fisher podium in the middle of a performance of Shostakovich’s Fifth Symphony, vexed by concertgoers’ coughing. But what THE TIMES called ‘his finest hour, and a gift to the city’, came on Sept. 20, 2001. That night, in a nationally televised memorial to the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Masur led the Philharmonic in a performance of Brahms’s German Requiem’.
If Mr. Masur was considered autocratic at times, he was not — at least by the standards of his august profession — considered egomaniacal. In interviews over the years, he strove to deflect attention from himself and onto the art form. ‘I don’t want to be called a wonder,’ Mr. Masur told THE TIMES in 1991. ‘The wonder is the music’.”
- Margalit Fox, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 19 Dec., 2015
“Jean-Pierre Rampal, the French-born flutist who was the first virtuoso on his instrument to enjoy enormous success and celebrity as a touring soloist and who almost single-handedly took the flute to new levels of popularity in the decades after World War II, was the first flutist to attain the kind of visibility and presence that previously had gone only to virtuoso pianists and violinists. Mr. Rampal regularly filled the world's largest concert halls, even at times the Hollywood Bowl, for his recitals and chamber music performances, and in his prime he gave more than 100 concerts a year.
Mr. Rampal's popularity was grounded in qualities that won him consistent praise from critics and musicians in the first decades of his career: solid musicianship, technical command, uncanny breath control, and a distinctive tone that eschewed Romantic richness and warm vibrato in favor of clarity, radiance, focus and a wide palette of colorings. Younger flutists assiduously studied and tried to copy his approaches to tonguing, fingering, embouchure and breathing.
Reviewing Mr. Rampal's performance in Mozart's Concerto for Flute and Harp with the New York Philharmonic in 1976, THE NEW YORK TIMES critic Harold C. Schonberg wrote, 'Mr. Rampal, with his effortless long line, his sweet and pure tone and his sensitive musicianship, is of course one of the great flutists in history'.
His entrance into concert life coincided with a revival of interest in Baroque music, which Mr. Rampal championed. Still, much of his popularity came from his presence and energy as a performer. At 6 feet 1 inch, with a bearlike build and erect stance, he looked imposing when he walked on stage. But once he started to play, he seemed the essence of French elegance, taste and poise. As recently as 1998, at a concert in Boston's Symphony Hall, though Mr. Rampal was recuperating from knee surgery, fighting a cold and clearly uncomfortable, his performance moved the BOSTON GLOBE critic Richard Dyer to note that ‘the level of Mr. Rampal's skill and the charm of his personality had not changed'.
‘In 1945, with the Germans out of Paris, I was getting happier every minute' he later recalled in his 1989 autobiography, MUSIC, MY LOVE, which has been translated into four languages. Accounting for the French penchant for early music at the time, he further wrote: ‘The beat to which the city marched was one dear to my heart. Baroque music was the sentiment of the day. Bach, Haydn, Handel, Vivaldi & Co., with their precise, measured music, gave the public the security and sense of order that the war had taken away. You knew where this music was going and what it would do.
In 1945, he was invited to join the orchestra of the Paris Opera. He became its principal flutist in 1958 and held the position for six years. But he simultaneously pursued his solo career, starting in 1946 when he began a long association with the pianist and harpsichordist Robert Veyron-Lacroix. That year he also made his first formal recording (Mozart's Quartet in D for Flute and Strings). In 1947, he married Francoise Bacqueyrisse, a harpist. The security he gained from his marriage, which produced two children, emboldened him to undertake concert tours as a solo flutist, at the time an untried idea. The risk paid off. In 1948, he formed the Ensemble Baroque de Paris, which enjoyed considerable success. By the 1950s he was touring Europe as a recitalist. In 1958, he and Mr. Veyron-Lacroix made their first ambitious concert tour of the United States and Canada, the highlight of which was a performance at Carnegie Hall of works by Handel, Bach, Beethoven and Prokofiev, as well as a Poulenc sonata written for him."
- Anthony Tommasini, THE NEW YORK TIMES, 21 May, 2000