A new Brahms set can’t compete with the competition

Yulia Berinskaya: Brahms

The Strad Issue: January 2024

Description: A new Brahms set can’t compete with the competition

Musicians: Yulia Berinskaya (violin) Alessandra Ammara (piano)

Works: Brahms: Violin Sonatas nos.1–3

Catalogue number: DA VINCI CLASSICS C00757

The market for Brahms’s violin sonatas is a crowded one and to enter it is to go head to head with Renaud Capuçon, Augustin Dumay, Alina Ibragimova, Leonidas Kavakos and Tasmin Little, to mention just a few. This release from Russian-born, Milan-based Yulia Berinskaya is sadly not in the same league. Her technique is certainly sound and if phrase endings seem to tail off sharply, with little tapering of the tone, this could be in part an unforgiving acoustic. But too much of the time, Brahms’s lyrical flow is undernourished. New themes are often under-characterised, or enter without event: the second theme of the First Sonata’s first movement, for example, stumbles in as if by accident.

There could be more leaning in to chromatic interest, and more variety of tonal shading (the First Sonata’s Adagio lacks the searching mystery of other performances). Figuration, accompanying and sometimes even melodic, can sound lifeless, and rests between phrases become empty chasms rather than silent incubators. The piano isn’t especially well captured, sounding a little flattened in expression.

The overall impression is more of a rehearsal-room playthrough than a real performance; the Presto agitato finale of the Sonata no.3 has good bite but the journey to get there is long and often dispiriting.

Edward Bhesania