Joanna Wronko / Frank van de Laar

The French-Polish Album

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Joanna Wronko is a Polish violinist based in Germany who, presumably as her accompanist Frank van de Laar is Dutch, works a lot in the Netherlands, as well. Wronko is a violinist who concentrates on passion and delivery more so than technique and other, more germane kinds of matters; she's more worried about what it sounds like out in the audience --and whether they are feeling what she is -- than what her fingers are doing, and in this sense she is reminiscent of violinist David Oistrakh. Perhaps this is what Frank van de Laar had in mind when he suggested Karol Szymanowski's D minor Violin Sonata -- a piece once beloved of Oistrakh -- to her to lead off Ars Musici's The French-Polish Album, her first release on CD. There's a bit of the ingénue in both Wronko's playing and personality. The very idea of a "French-Polish Album" is both a little canny and off the mark; while certainly there has been a strong crosstalk between Paris and Poland since the times of Chopin and even Johann Schobert, using that as an excuse to match up Szymanowski and Lutoslawski with Chausson, Debussy, and Massenet's Thaïs Meditation in the ubiquitous Marsick arrangement may seem, at first glance, like a stretch. On her website, Wronko typifies the Szymanowski as "a relatively obscure piece" when it has been recorded more than 20 times, and the Debussy Violin Sonata includes some interpretive choices that make it something of a disappointment. End of lecture; look, the kid is just trying to play here, and one thing she's not naïve about is that a recording is something that is a very different medium from playing concerts. So Wronko does her best, and the Szymanowski is indeed very fine, as is the Lutoslawski Subito, which crackles with drama and intensity. The Massenet and Chausson are both in a way moving and in another, routine. Wronko definitely has an ace in the hole with van de Laar, who is an excellent accompanist; now that her maiden voyage is out of the way, hopefully he and other factors can help push Wronko to the heights of Parnassus next time. Impetuosity, spontaneity, and vigor are never things one would want to discourage in a concert violinist, and Wronko is in possession of them; just a bit more self-discipline, however, would have gone a long way.

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