Richard Tunnicliffe brings a lifetime's experience to these recordings, as a gamba player in Fretwork, a continuo cellist with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and as principal cellist of the Avison Ensemble. No surprise, then, that these recordings have authority, character and a truly distinctive sound, fabulously captured by Linn.
Playing at a pitch where 'A' is 415Hz, he uses a 1720 Bavarian cello with a burnished timbre in the first five Suites. Some may find the Preludes and Courantes a little stiff-jointed, particularly in the G and the E flat major Suites. Pelting Courantes and Gigues have become a feature of performances on modern and period instruments alike, but Tunnicliffe refuses to be hurried, etching out each note with loving care, sparing of vibrato and any extraneous ornament. Rhythmic vitality may not be foremost, but his Gavottes, Menuets and Bourées dance gracefully, while his Sarabandes display an austere beauty.
Best of all is the final D major Suite, played on a rare, French, five string cello piccolo. From the opening notes of the Prelude we are held in its radiant, golden embrace.
Jean-Guihen Queyras's impressive set is fluent and fantastical beside this more measured reading, but there's a spiritual quality to Tunnicliffe's recital that perhaps brings us closer to Bach.