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'Passione' nibbles; 'Awake' blinks; Rampal; and Stray Cats; Jean-Pierre Rampal

Excellent taste and scholarship, and an insuperable technique are what flutist Jean-Pierre Rampal has been about for almost 40 years. He is still about it - but with a gentler, more reflective quality than in the past.

In a program of mostly 18th-century music at Symphony Hall, Rampal and John Steele Ritter (on piano and harpsichord) steered delicately through the intricacies of the baroque pieces and engulfed the audience with the moods of an unhurried time. Rampal has always felt most at home with music of this period, but a measured, relaxed pace has replaced the frenzy that in the past has sometimes seeped into his playing of faster tempos. As always, his beautiful tone brought out the smallest nuance.

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Ritter seemed as equally at home as Rampal in the technical hazards and interpretive problems of the early music. And the clarity of his playing lent excitement to the somewhat tedious Czerny Duo concertante.

In the rarely heard Bartok ''Hungarian Peasant Suite,'' the two played with folksy simplicity that was a welcome relief from the layering of romantic gestures that one so often hears in works of this genre.

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