Brett Dean studied in his hometown of Brisbane, Australia, before moving, in 1984, to Germany, where he was a member of the Berlin Philharmonic’s viola section for 14 years. It was during that time, in 1988, that he began composing. Mr. Dean’s music is championed by many of today’s leading conductors, including Sir Simon Rattle, Vladimir Jurowski, Simone Young, Daniel Harding, Andris Nelsons, Marin Alsop, and Sakari Oramo. Much of his work draws from literary, political, environmental, or visual stimuli, including the work of his wife, the artist Heather Betts.
Early in his composing career, Mr. Dean concentrated on experimental film and radio projects and improvisational performances. His reputation continued to develop, and it was through works like 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 and inspired by the music of Carlo Gesualdo (1566–1613), that he gained international recognition.
In 2009, Mr. Dean won the Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition for his violin concerto The Lost Art of Letter Writing, and in 2016 he was awarded the Australian Council’s Don Banks Music Award for his “sustained and significant contribution to Australia’s musical scene.” In June 2017 his second opera, Hamlet, was premiered at the Glyndebourne Festival to great acclaim, winning a 2018 South Bank Sky Arts Award and International Opera Award.
Mr. Dean enjoys a busy performing career as a violist and a conductor, playing his own Viola Concerto with many of the world’s leading orchestras. He’s also a natural chamber musician, frequently collaborating to perform his own works and pieces from the standard repertoire with soloists and ensembles such as the Doric String Quartet, the Scharoun Ensemble, cellist Alban Gerhardt, the Australian Chamber Orchestra, and the Australian National Academy of Music. Mr. Dean’s imaginative conducting programs usually center on his own works combined with other composers’. He’s served as creative chair for the Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich (in the 2017–18 season), and he’s worked with the BBC Philharmonic; Los Angeles Philharmonic; BBC, Gothenburg, Melbourne, Sydney, and Toronto symphony orchestras; Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra; Tonkünstler-Orchester; and Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra.
In February 2020, in a festival celebrating Mr. Dean’s work, the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, premiered Mr. Dean’s piano concerto Gneixendorfer Musik—eine Winterreise, written for and featuring Jonathan Biss. Additional recent highlights include Mr. Dean conducting the French premiere of the concerto with Mr. Biss and the Orchestre National de Lyon in October 2020; the German premiere of Hamlet at the Cologne Opera in November 2019, in a new production by librettist Matthew Jocelyn; and the US premiere at Hamlet at The Metropolitan Opera, scheduled for 2022. In the 2020–21 season, Mr. Dean began a three-year tenure as composer-in-residence for the London Philharmonic Orchestra. He also serves as composer-in-residence with the Orchestre National de Lyon and artist-in-residence with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra.
Brett Dean’s music has been recorded for the BIS, Chandos, Warner Classics, ECM Records, and ABC Classics record labels. Highlights include a 2016 BIS recording of Mr. Dean leading the Swedish Chamber Orchestra in his Shadow Music, Testament, Short Stories, and Etüdenfest, and a 2008 BIS recording of him performing his Viola Concerto with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, led by Simone Young. In June 2018, the Glyndebourne Festival released a DVD of Hamlet, which won a 2019 Gramophone Award.
The works of Brett Dean are published by Boosey & Hawkes.