The Strad Issue: January 2008
Musicians: Richard Tunnicliffe (cello/bass violin) James Johnstone (harpsichord/organ), Paula Chateauneuf (theorbo), Sebastian Comberti (cello)
Composer: Domenico Gabrielli, Rognoni, Frescobaldi & Selma y Salaverde

This disc’s fare comprises a mix of canzonas, ricercares, sonatas and other pieces. Richard Tunnicliffe uses the standard cello tuning for the first six of Gabrielli’s ricercares and conveys the florid passagework and implied polyphony of these free fantasia-like pieces with style and artistic flair. Especially remarkable are the first section of the binary-form no.5 in C major, with its leaping figurations and striking dissonances, and the most extensive ricercar, no.2 in A minor.

Tunnicliffe is joined by Paula Chateauneuf’s subtle theorbo timbres in an expressive account of Gabrielli’s Sonata in A major, featuring some beautiful cello ornamentation, and by Sebastian Comberti in the same composer’s Canon for two cellos. Comberti plays an accompanying role in Gabrielli’s Sonata in G major, in which Tunnicliffe demonstrates refined musicianship totally at the service of the music.

The same sonata features earlier in an alternative version for scordatura cello (tuned C–G–d–g), theorbo and organ. Tunnicliffe and his partners enliven it in an unforced manner, particularly its expressive opening Grave and its neatly articulated final Presto. They also weave their magic in convincing accounts of Gabrielli’s Seventh Ricercar and Frescobaldi’s Canzona no.7 ‘La superba’.

Tunnicliffe’s bass-violin rendition of Rognoni’s embroidery of the five-part chanson Susanne un jour is arresting, as is his flamboyance and virtuosity in the divisions of Selma y Salaverde’s Fantasia no.9 and the florid cadences of Frescobaldi’s Canzona no.5 ‘La tromboncina’. The clarity, presence and balance of the recording are exemplary throughout.