SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

BACH: The Six Cello Suites – Richard Tunnicliffe, cello – LINN (2 discs)

Tunnicliffe brings each suite a unique voice; a voice among many voices.

Published on July 14, 2012

BACH: The Six Cello Suites – Richard Tunnicliffe, cello – Linn Records multichannel SACD CKD 396 [Distr. by Naxos] ****:

Recorded at the St. George’s Church in Cambridge, U.K between October 2010 to November 2011, British cellist Richard Tunnicliffe presents his debut album with Bach’s Six Cello Suites for the audiophile label Linn Records. Considered to be required repertoire for any professional cellist, similar to what the Well-Tempered Clavier or the Six Sonatas & Partitas for Solo Violin may be perceived by the pianist or violinist alike, the Bach Suites have enjoyed an immensely popular history as a collective work since their inception in the 1720s. From the early decades of the 1900s to the present day, we are blessed by a legacy of celebrated recordings, each of which invites the listener with a distinguished and fresh outlook. Arguably, this all started with Pablo Casals’s classic interpretation made in the late 1930s, and peaked, rather recently, with Steven Isserlis’s landmark recording made in 2007 for Hyperion Records. Richard Tunnicliffe’s interpretation of these Suites belongs in a calibre defined by musical intuition, technical balance, and intellectual command. Throughout the musical genius of Bach’s writings, Tunnicliffe brings each Suite with a unique voice; a voice among many voices.

Reading the liner notes of this album by Tunnicliffe certainly helps the listener grasp the sound world, musical relationships and juxtapositions with others of Bach’s canons. Starting from Disc 1’s Suite No.1 in sequence to the final Suite No.6 on Disc 2, the entire 137 minutes of listening becomes an experience of spiritual fulfilment. To this listener, the whole experience is also an adventurous one, exacerbated by the rhythmical jest and uplifting moments by Tunnicliffe’s skilled crafts and virtuosity.

Listen, for example, to Tunnicliffe’s masterly articulation and understanding of the dance forms. The Menuet from Suite No.2, in particular, imprints with a momentum and forward-looking character, very much like a young adolescent striving to explore the unknowns of life. Likewise, the Prelude and Allemande from Suite No.6 evoke rural characters of serenity, with an almost pastoral quality that could have foreshadowed Beethoven some 80 years later in his Sixth Symphony. The dualities of liveliness and conformity are also well-balanced in Tunnicliffe’s musical dialogues. For example, each of the Courantes, like the one from Suite No.3, can be personified to be jolly light-spirited characters, whose comical remarks are represented by leaping arpeggios and lively running figures. Tunnicliffe brings breaths of life into what are merely dots and sticks on music paper. How few can actually achieve that! If it is essential to point out a plausible weakness in this recording, the echoes may be a bother to a selected few. Note that I was using a NAD L40 receiver and B&W 685 speakers to sample this recording – thus, the presentation of this recording may have greater sonic precision in more professional setups. Nevertheless, Tunnicliffe’s Bach Cello Suites is a welcoming addition within the recorded catalogue of this oeuvre. For more information, visit Richard Tunnicliffe at Linn Records: http://www.linnrecords.com/artist-richard-tunnicliffe.aspx

—Patrick P.L. Lam




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