There are numerous recordings of the Bach Cello Suites, and for many cellists these works provide a lifetime journey of musical discovery. As well as an accomplished cellist, Richard Tunnicliffe is a viol player and a member of the ensemble Fretwork. As one would perhaps expect from a player with such an active interest in Baroque repertoire, this recording comes across as honest and historically informed. It is free of the excessive rubato that can sometimes take over in solo instrumental works of this kind. That is not to say that the performances on this two disc set are unexpressive; far from it, in fact. Tunnicliffe's reading allows Bach's melodies to flow and develop naturally with a sense of unforced simplicity and direction. The sound is clear and the recording quality is excellent, with the intimacy of chamber music well captured.
Tunnicliffe's relatively moderate tempos allow the music to breathe naturally, with his rich tone resonating beautifully in this well engineered recording. Tunnicliffe seems to have an innate understanding of the line, providing a sense of effortless flow to each phrase. This well considered interpretation is unencumbered by the technical aspects of the performance. His command of the music and of his instrument is such that any challenges of technique are never perceptible by the listener.
The cello sound in this recording is rich and resonant but with a sense of direct focus in the centre of the tone. Tunnicliffe plays on a German cello made in 1720, the same year as the cello suites are thought to have been composed. Also worthy of note is the use of a five string cello from 1726 for the final, most virtuosic of the six Suites. Both instruments are heard at Baroque pitch.
Tunnicliffe's well written sleeve notes describe the music with authority and enthusiasm, and the dance styles, as well as the performer's approach to interpretation, are well explained.
This is a thoroughly engaging recording and one which demonstrates mastery of the instrument and the chosen repertoire.