Teasing out the 'inner life' of music by Brahms and Berg: The Heath Quartet

The Heath Quartet sit together at a table.

After six months away, we're delving headfirst into the music of Johannes Brahms as BBC BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime Concerts return to LSO St Luke's this September. Tracing the influence of the Romantic titan's music on the generations that would follow, we're welcoming a roster of extraordinary musicians, including the Heath Quartet, who make their return to the Jerwood Hall on Friday 25 September.

Ahead of the concert, we asked how it feels to resume live performances as a quartet, and what the music they've selected means to them. 

'This will be only the second time since March that we walk out on stage together, so it is a special occasion. The pairing of these two quartets, the A Minor by Brahms and Berg’s Opus 3 is particularly exciting for us as we recorded the Berg quartet for our disc celebrating the Second Viennese School last December and now have the thrill of returning to it with a live audience.

Juxtaposing these two amazing pieces highlights the interesting lineage from Brahms to Berg via his teacher Schoenberg, who called Brahms 'The Progressive.' We think listeners will get a keen sense of how both composers emphasised clarity of structure, as well as the importance of small motifs within the larger picture – the music's 'inner life'.

The Brahms quartet is notable for the powerfully nostalgic and wistful atmosphere that hangs over the whole work – so much more ambivalent than it's Op 51 stablemate, the C minor Quartet. The sense of regret finds relief in passages of Viennese lightness and charm, but ultimately the ageing composer seems to see little cause for optimism.

The Berg, on the other hand, is wonderfully mercurial, the music often changing mood, sonority and tempo in an ultra-expressive and operatic style. Often there are four independent voices at once, sometimes all working towards the same musical goal, but occasionally pulling in different directions, or even ganging up in pairs against each other!'

 The Heath Quartet will take to the stage for their BBC Radio 3 Lunchtime concert on Friday 25 September. The concert will be recorded for broadcast at a later date.

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