Brett Dean studied in Brisbane before moving to Germany in 1984, where he performed as violist in the Berlin Philharmonic for fourteen years. Now one of the most internationally performed composers of his generation, much of Dean’s work draws from literary, political, environmental, and visual stimuli, including a number of compositions inspired by artwork by his wife Heather Betts. His music is championed by many or the leading conductors and orchestras worldwide, including Sir Simon Rattle, Andris Nelsons, Marin Alsop, David Robertson, and Simone Young.
Brett Dean began composing in 1988, initially concentrating on experimental film and radio projects and as an improvisational performer. Dean’s reputation as a composer began to develop, and it was through works such as his clarinet concerto Ariel’s Music (1995), which won an award from the UNESCO International Rostrum of Composers, and Carlo (1997) for strings, sampler, and tape inspired by the music of Carlo Gesualdo, that he gained international recognition. In 2000 Dean returned to his native Australia to concentrate on his composition, and he now splits his time between Melbourne and Berlin.
In 2009 Dean won the Grawemeyer Award for music composition for his violin concerto The Lost Art of Letter Writing and in 2016 was awarded the Don Banks Music Award by the Australia Council acknowledging his sustained and significant contribution to Australia’s musical scene. His first opera, Bliss, was premiered in 2010 by Opera Australia and has since been performed at the Hamburg Opera and Edinburgh International Festival. Recent commissions include The Last Days of Socrates, a large-scale, choral-orchestral work premiered in 2013 by the Berliner Philpharmoniker/Berlin Rundfunkchor/Rattle and co-commissioned by the Melbourne Symphony and Los Angeles Philharmonic. Most recently, Dean’s new trumpet concerto Dramatis Personae was premiered by soloist Håkan Hardenberger at the 2013 Grafenegg Festival and with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Danish National Symphony Orchestra, and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.
Dean enjoys a busy performing career as violist and conductor and since 2005 has been performing his own Viola Concerto with many of the world’s leading orchestras. Dean is a natural chamber musician, frequently collaborating with other soloists and ensembles to perform both his own chamber works and standard repertoire. Recent highlights include projects with the Doric Quartet, Scharoun Ensemble, and Alban Gerhardt. Dean’s career as conductor is also blossoming alongside his work as composer and performer, his imaginative programs usually centered around his own works combined with other composers. Recent conducting highlights include the Sydney Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Concertgebouw Orchestra, Melbourne Symphony, BBC Philharmonic, Gothenburg Symphony, Toronto Symphony, Tonkünstler-Orchester, Royal Northern Sinfonia, and as artist-in-residence with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra.
The 2016/17 season sees the world premiere of Dean’s new opera Hamlet with libretto by Matthew Jocelyn at Glyndebourne Festival Opera, directed by Neil Armfield and conducted by Vladimir Jurowski. Allan Clayton sings the title role, leading a cast which also includes Barbara Hannigan, Sarah Connolly, and John Tomlinson.
Dean is the inaugural artist-in-residence with Sydney Symphony Orchestra, a three-season role that commenced in 2016 which encompasses conducting, performing, and creative programming in collaboration with David Robertson. He is also BBC Symphony Orchestra artist-in-residence, which includes the world premiere of From Melodious Lay conducted by Joshua Weilerstein and the UK premiere of Knocking at the Hellgate with Russel Braun.
Elsewhere Dean is composer-in-focus at Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra where he will conduct the world premiere of Music of Memory and which sees a major focus of performances of his works throughout the season. He is artist-in-residence with Taiwan Philharmonic and composer-in-residence at the 2017 Hong Kong International Chamber Music Festival. Elsewhere this season, Dean performs his Viola Concerto with Seoul Philharmonic and Philharmonisches Staatsorchester Mainz, gives the world premiere of Rooms of Elsinore at the Library of Congress, and appears at Festspiele Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.
Brett Dean’s music has been recorded for BIS, Chandos, Warner Classics, ECM Records and ABC Classics, with a new BIS release of works including Shadow Music, Testament, Short Stories, and Etudenfest performed by Swedish Chamber Orchestra and conducted by Dean. Dean’s Viola Concerto has also been released on BIS with the Sydney Symphony, with Dean reviewed as “a formidable and musical player as well as an impressive composer…an excellent showcase of Dean’s range as a composer.” (Guardian) More recently, Dean’s music has been released on a number of CDs, including Bliss with Opera Australia and Elgar Howarth to critical acclaim and Epitaphs/Eclipse/String Quartet No. 2 (And once I played Ophelia) with Allison Bell and the Doric String Quartet. Looking ahead, a disc of Dean’s Dramatis Personae with Håkan Hardenberger and Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra will be released on BIS.
Be sure to hear Brett’s 2017 Festival performances listed below
Wednesday, July 26, 6pm
Thursday, July 27, noon
Thursday, July 27, 7:30pm
Sunday, July 30, 6pm
Monday, July 31, 6pm
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