One of the most internationally performed composers of his generation, much of Brett Dean’s work draws from literary, political or visual stimuli, including a number of compositions inspired by paintings by his wife Heather Betts. Dean studied in Brisbane before moving to Germany in 1984 where he was a permanent member of the Berlin Philharmonic for fourteen years. In 1988 he began composing alongside his orchestral work, initially concentrating on experimental film and radio projects and as an improvising performer. He became established as a composer through works such 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.
Now sharing his time between Berlin and his native Australia, Dean’s works now attract considerable attention, championed by conductors such as Sir Simon Rattle, Markus Stenz and Daniel Harding. He has been commissioned by the Berlin Philharmonic, Concertgebouw Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, BBC Proms, Lucerne Festival, Royal Stockholm Philharmonic, Cologne Philharmonie, BBC Symphony, Melbourne Symphony and Sydney Symphony Orchestras among others. In 2009 Dean won the prestigious Grawemeyer Award for his violin concerto The Lost Art of Letter Writing
. The work was co-commissioned by the Cologne Philharmonie and Stockholm Philharmonic, and premiered by Frank Peter Zimmermann and the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Dean in 2007. In 2010, Dean’s debut opera Bliss
was first performed to critical acclaim by Opera Australia under Elgar Howarth at the Sydney Opera House, and following further performances in Melbourne received its European premiere at the 2010 Edinburgh Festival. A new production of Bliss
opened the Hamburg Opera’s 2010/11 season and receives a revival in 2011/12.
In November 2011, New York’s Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center announced Dean as the winner of the prestigious Elise L. Stoeger Prize for his significant contribution to chamber music composition. His string quintet Epitaphs
premiered at the Cheltenham Festival in 2010 and has since received numerous performances including at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, La Jolla SummerFest, Cologne Philharmonie, Melbourne Recital Centre, London’s Wigmore Hall as part of a Composer Focus day on Dean, and this season in Stockholm and Trondheim. Other recent first performances include a Violin Sonata
written for Midori and a Sextet
which received its world premiere at the 2011 City of London Festival by the Nash Ensemble, who co-commissioned the work alongside the Australia Ensemble and Eighth Blackbird.
This season Dean’s music is celebrated in a number of composer focuses. The 2011 Trondheim Chamber Music Festival featured Dean as Festival Composer, and the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra presented a two-week “Composer Festival” which includes the first performance of Dean’s orchestral piece Fire Music
, conducted by Sakari Oramo. Fire Music
received its UK premiere under David Robertson as part of the BBC Symphony Orchestra’s “Total Immersion” day on Dean’s music at London’s Barbican Centre, further to a run of choreographed performances of the work by fellow co-commissioners the Australian Ballet in Sydney and Melbourne.
Dean is enjoying increasing success as a conductor, following recent engagements conducting orchestras such as the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Concertgebouw Orchestra, Melbourne Symphony, BBC Philharmonic, Gothenburg Symphony and SWR Symphonieorchester Stuttgart as part of a season Artistic Residency. This season he conducts the Hamburg Philharmonic, Adelaide Symphony and Swedish Chamber Orchestra as part of the Artist in Residence role he has held since 2010/11.
Since 2005 Dean has also been performing his own Viola Concerto with orchestras including the BBC Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Sydney Symphony, Orchestre National de Lyon, Hamburg Philharmonic, BBC Philharmonic, Dresden Philharmonic and Melbourne Symphony. This season he performs the work with the Danish National Radio Symphony, Avanti! Chamber, Trondheim Symphony and Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestras.
Brett Dean’s music has been recorded for BIS and ABC Classics, the most recent release being a collection of Dean’s works on BIS including Water Music
and the Pastoral Symphony
, performed by the Swedish Chamber Orchestra under the batons of Dean and HK Gruber. Dean’s Viola Concerto
has also been recently 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” (The Guardian).
Brett Dean is represented by Intermusica. www.intermusica.co.uk/dean. The works of Brett Dean are published by Boosey & Hawkes / Bote & Bock.
June 2012. 708 words. NOT TO BE ALTERED without permission. Please destroy all previous biographical material.