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Brett Dean: Debussy orchestrations and four new discs

(September 2015)

DeanDebussyBlissNews.jpg Brett Dean's new Debussy songs arrangement receives its premiere in Sydney with Magdalena Kožená and Simon Rattle, and an array of new recording releases includes his Peter Carey opera Bliss.

Simon Rattle conducted the world premiere of Brett Dean’s new orchestration of Debussy’s Ariettes Oubliées in July, sung by Magdalena Kožená with the Australian World Orchestra at the Sydney Opera House. The new version of the six songs setting poetry by Paul Verlaine expand on the colours heard in Debussy’s original with piano "and what a revelation this was, with Dean’s adventurous but respectful settings highlighting Kožená’s radiant top register and fine expressive range (The Daily Telegraph)." The mezzo gives three further performances in Prague’s Rudolfinum on 18-20 November, with the Czech Philharmonic conducted by Robin Ticciati.

"Dean is a masterful orchestrator. Shimmering textures and evocative colours evoked an impressionist sound-world and his vibrant setting of Chevaux de bois recalled Debussy’s Fêtes."
The Australian

"Dean’s handiwork was everywhere apparent, from the touched-in droplets of Tears Fall in my Heart and the twinkling percussion gracing Green, to the Baxian hint of Celtic melancholy in The Shadow of the Trees. Merry-go-round was a swirling riot, drawing a feisty response from Kožená. The coup de grâce however was her inhabiting of a troubled soul on the verge in the final song, Spleen, culminating in a spine tingling ‘hélas’."
Limelight Magazine

Four new recordings featuring Brett Dean’s works have been released in recent months, headed by the 3CD-set of his opera Bliss, featuring the original Australian Opera cast conducted by Elgar Howarth (ABC Classics 4811820). Peter Carey’s novel, adapted into a libretto by Amanda Holden, offers a hellish inversion of reality after the ad-man Harry Joy suffers a life-changing heart attack. The opera was premiered in Sydney in 2010 in Neil Armfield’s production, travelled to the Edinburgh Festival, and a second production by Ramin Gray was staged the same year at the Hamburg Opera conducted by Simone Young.

Chandos has released a collection of Dean’s chamber music including his two string quartets and Epitaphs for string quintet with the composer joining the Doric Quartet as violist (CHAN 10873). The Aurora Orchestra includes Dean’s Pastoral Symphony on its new ‘Insomnia’ collection, tied in with its BBC Proms performance conducted by Nicholas Collon (Warner Classics 2564608223). Hommage à Brahms is included in Orli Shaham’s recent recital disc, with Dean’s three pieces composed for Emmanuel Ax interleaved between music by the German master (Canary Classics CC15).

> Buy the new Dean Epitaphs disc from our online shop

In addition to Dean’s ongoing residency with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, a new residency with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra was recently announced, running 2016-18 and including curation of a new contemporary music series based at Carriageworks.

Dean is currently working on his second opera, Hamlet, planned for premiere at the Glyndebourne Festival in 2017 under the baton of Vladimir Jurowski. The Shakespeare classic is adapted by Canadian writer and theatre director Matthew Jocelyn, with a starry cast including Allan Clayton, Barbara Hannigan, Sarah Connolly and John Tomlinson, and production by Neil Armfield.

>  Further information on Work: Ariettes oubliées

Photo: Prudence Upton

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