He could learn a thing or two from the great Polish contralto Ewa Podles, who took the same stage a week later. Last time round - in a concert now enshrined on a WigmoreLive Cd - she and her pianist Garrick Ohlsson (a virtuoso in his own right) regaled their fans with songs by Chopin, Rachmaninov, and Tchaikovsky. This time they did Musorgsky, Haydn, and the little-known Polish composer Mieceslaw Karlowicz (1876-1909), for whom Podles carries a torch. Whether he would have emerged as a major composer if he hadnt been swept away by an avalanche at 33, Im not sure: the piano accompaniments to his songs were more memorable than the voice parts, for all their wistful grace. But the main event - Musorgskys The Nursery - was electrifying. These songs were Musorgskys boldest shot at reflecting the rhythms of everyday speech in music: Podles gave each a unique and irresistible character, by turns comic, sad, and surreal. Her sound is huge, yet her coloratura is astonishingly nimble, and she has a seemingly inexhaustible range of colours up her sleeve. The more she sang - finishing with a blast of Rossini as her send-off - the less we wanted to let her go: a life-force.
The following night the Wigmore hosted the Vienna Piano Trio, and note the roster - Wolfgang Redik (violin), Matthias Gredler (cello), and Stefan Mendl (piano) - as these youngish musicians may be names to conjure with in years to come: I have never heard a Haydn piano trio sound so un-sedate, or Brahmss Opus 87 trio so vivid. Sandwiched between them was a short work of great intriguingness: Friedrich Cerhas Five Pieces for Piano Trio broke the rules of the game by doing away with the pianos dominion, and letting the subtler sound-worlds of the other two instruments dictate what should happen. Cerha - who once set the cat among the pigeons by daring to complete Bergs Lulu against the dead composers wifes wishes - is with his friend Kurt Schwertsik one of the two leading composers in Austria today. Everything they do is (often quietly) revolutionary, and never less than interesting.