Tim Homfray travels to London’s Wigmore Hall to hear the performance of  Wolf, Piazzolla and Tchaikovsky on 10 May 2023 


Practice makes perfect: the Sainsbury Royal Academy Soloists in rehearsal. Photo: courtesy Royal Academy of Music

The 18 string players of the Sainsbury Royal Academy Soloists produced punchy accents in the opening of Wolf’s Italian Serenade. The playing was vibrant and energetic, with a good fruity bass sound from the four cellos and two basses and fine solos from violist Gordon Cervoni and cellist Jihyo Jung.

Each of Piazzolla’s Four Seasons of Buenos Aires (in Leonid Desyatnikov’s arrangement) featured a different soloist stepping forward from the ranks; it began with ‘Summer’ and Muriel Oberhofer, who at first was almost drowned by the orchestral heft but proved idiomatic in the quieter, slower passages, finding good contrast with the more fiery writing. Emil Hartikainen opened ‘Autumn’ with energetic insouciance, before being rather upstaged by a beautifully played cello solo from Jihyo Jung. He launched into the cadenza with athletic exuberance and brought plenty of personality to the sultry melodies which followed.

In ‘Winter’, Francisca Caldas de Brito produced another dashing cadenza and plenty of sultriness in its melodies, playing with a rich, woody tone and moments of pathos and fire. Jihyo Jung was splendid again in another solo. Iohan Coman concluded the work with a vivacious display of rapid-fire pyrotechnics and muscularity in ‘Spring’.

The concert ended with Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir de Florence, whose opening movement had thrilling swagger and real momentum (though not always perfect intonation). There was excellent ricochet bowing in the Allegretto and, some uncertain entries notwithstanding, great joie de vivre in the finale.