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Full of Golden Light

The MHS Review 238 Vol. 3, No. 4 • April 16, 1979

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David M. Greene

In fact there's some of the flootest-fingered fleeting on this particular record that I've ever heard him do.


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A lady and gent with whom I'm slightly acquainted dropped by on a matter of business the other day, while I was playing the Benny Goodman record of the Mozart clarinet quintet. The lady being occupied elsewhere. her husband strolled about the living-room looking for dust or fingerprints or whatever. Pausing to study a record-jacket he'd chanced on. he nodded toward the turntable and asked "That Rampal?" As I tried delicately to explain the difference, his wife returned. "Look, dear." he said, pointing to the jacket on the table, "Your hero." "Do you like Rampal?" I inquired politely. "Oh, he's all right." she replied. "but I like the Irish fella--what's his name?--Galway? better." Since I do not consider myself a true aficionado of the flute, I asked in all seriousness just how Galway was preferable. "He smiles more," she told me. "Rampal is cold. Just stands up there and plays. He never smiles."

I include this anecdote in the hope that M. Rampal will read it or that someone will tip him off. Every time I've switched on the tube lately, there Mr. Galway has been--not only smiling. but also giggling and chuckling. It looks like a deliberate campaign to undercut his rival. Rampal should phone Dinah or Merv or Mike--or all three--and demand equal smiling time, or he's going to be in trouble, no matter how well he plays.

And he does play well. Even as a non-connoisseur I can hear it. In fact there's some of the flootest-fingered fleeting on this particular record that I've ever heard him do. And the program is well-chosen too, focusing as it does on four concerti that show the High Baroque of Vivaldi moving across the Rococo toward Mozart's and Haydn's classicism. However, it suffers from a mild case of Martini's syndrome--and I suffer from a lack of sufficient information to assure a cure. (What I do have says only "Flute concerti by Martini, Galuppi, Sammartini. and Pergolesi. ")

Okay, let's take the concerto by Martini. I assume its composer to have been the Bolognese priest Giovanni Battista Martini. Padre Martini, as he was called, was a very learned, and apparently very warm and charming man. He had a magnificent library, corresponded with the great and near-great of all Europe, and was generally regarded as the court of highest appeal in matters musical. He was much in demand as a teacher. He heard young Mozart in 1770 and gave him his blessing. He wrote a fair amount of music for organ and for choir, as well as several concerti for various instruments. including harpsichord, cello and flute. The flute concerto was composed in 1752 for a Muzio Spada, and is more of his time than the rather old-fashioned-sounding choral and organ music of his which I have heard.

I am not sure which of the Sammartini brothers (Giuseppe-an oboist--or Giovanni Battista--a harpsichordist). wrote the con­certo on this record, but since G.B. Sammartini (an important early symphonist) is said to have written over 2000 works, it may well be by him.

With the other two concerti, I am on firmer ground. I might paraphrase Robert Browning and say, 0 Galuppi, Baldassare, I am very glad to find that yours is the same charming concerto that M. Rampal recorded some years ago with the late Karl Ristenpart and his Saar Radio Chamber Orchestra. I find that performance somewhat more ponderous and "German" than this one, which is full of the Venetian gold light. Rampal and Ristenpart also recorded the concerto that is said to be the second of two by Pergolesi--the playing there is faster than here. The manuscript turned up in a library in Sweden, and experts are pretty much agreed that, for all its Italianate melody. Pergolesi probably had nothing to do with it. As for who did. no one has come up with even an educated guess.

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