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Brett Dean

Composer, Viola, Conductor
Artist in Association, BBC Symphony Orchestra / Artist in Residence, Sydney Symphony Orchestra / Artist in Residence, Swedish Chamber Orchestra

  • Brett Dean studied in Brisbane before moving to Germany in 1984 where he performed as violist within 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 or visual stimuli, including a number of compositions inspired by paintings by his wife Heather Betts. His music is championed by many of the leading conductors and orchestras worldwide, including Sir Simon Rattle, Andris Nelsons, Marin Alsop, David Robertson and Simone Young.

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  • Brett Dean began composing in 1988, initially concentrating on experimental film and radio projects and as an improvising performer. Dean’s reputation as a composer continued 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 shares his time between homes in Melbourne and Berlin.


    In 2009 Dean won the Grawemeyer Award for music composition for his violin concerto The Lost Art of Letter Writing. His first opera, Bliss, was premiered in 2010 by Opera Australia and has since been performed at the Hamburg Opera and the Edinburgh International Festival. Recent commissions include The Last Days of Socrates, a large-scale choral-orchestral work premiered in 2013 by the Berliner Philharmoniker/Berlin Rundfunkchor/Rattle and co-commissioned by 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 Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Danish National Symphony and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestras. Dean is currently working on a new opera based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet with a libretto by Matthew Jocelyn, to be premiered at Glyndebourne in 2017. Hamlet will be conducted by Vladimir Jurowski and directed by Neil Armfield, with Allan Clayton in the title role leading a cast which also includes Barbara Hannigan, Sarah Connolly and John Tomlinson.


    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 committed and natural chamber musician, frequently collaborating with other ensembles and orchestral musicians to perform both his own chamber works and standard repertoire. Recent and upcoming 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 programmes usually centred 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, Tonkünstler-Orchester, Royal Northern Sinfonia and as Artist in Residence with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra.


    Brett Dean is Artist in Association with the BBC Symphony Orchestra, a role to encompass premieres of his works, commissions and performances as violist and conductor. He will also begin as Artist in Residence with the Sydney Symphony from 2016 which will involve conducting, performing and creative programming in collaboration with David Robertson.


    Highlights of the 2015/16 season include the world premiere in Sydney and Melbourne of Ariettes oubliées, an arrangement of Debussy songs for Magdalena Kožená with the Australian World Orchestra conducted by Simon Rattle. Elsewhere Dean is the featured composer at the Toronto Symphony’s New Creations Festival during which he will perform his Viola Concerto as well as conduct the orchestra. Dean will also perform his Viola Concerto with the BBC Symphony/Oramo and Royal Scottish National Orchestra/Oundjian and conduct the BBC Symphony, Adelaide Symphony and Swedish Chamber orchestras. His music is performed by many leading orchestras, with highlights including performances of Dramatis Personae by Håkan Hardenberger with Boston Symphony Orchestra touring to Tanglewood Festival, Lucerne Festival, BBC Proms and Cologne Philharmonie and the Australian premiere by eth Australian String Qurartet of String Quartet No.2 “And once I played Ophelia”.


    Brett Dean’s music has been recorded for BIS and ABC Classics, with a new BIS release in 2013 of works including The Lost Art of Letter Writing, Testament and Vexations and Devotions, performed by the Sydney Symphony and BBC Symphony Orchestras. 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/Simone Young and The Siduri Dances with Amy Dickson and Sydney Symphony Orchestra, both on ABC Classics. Looking ahead a disc of Dean’s chamber works with the Doric Quartet will be released on Chandos, Dean’s Pastoral Symphony with the Aurora Orchestra on Warner Classics, and Carlo with the Estonian National Symphony Orchestra / Tõnu Kaljuste on ECM Records.

    The works of Brett Dean are published by Boosey & Hawkes.

    2015-16 season / 816 words. Not to be altered without permission.

Performances

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Recent composing highlights

Dramatis Personae (2013) - trumpet concerto for Hakan Hardenberger, world premiere Grafenegg Festival and co-commissioned by Leipzig Gewandhausorchester, Danish National Symphony and City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestras.


The Last Days of Socrates (2012) - world premiere Berlin Philharmonic / Rundfunkchor Berlin conducted by Simon Rattle with soloist John Tomlinson. Co-commissioned by Los Angeles Philharmonic/Dudamel and Melbourne Symphony Orchestra/Simone Young.


Bliss (2004-2009) - opera to a libretto by Amanda Holden after the novel by Peter Carey. World premiere by Opera Australia in Sydney and Melbourne, and European premiere at the Edinburgh International Festival.


The Lost Art of Letter Writing (2006) - violin concerto for Frank Peter Zimmermann, world premiere Concertgebouw Orchestra conducted by Brett Dean and co-commissioned by the Cologne Philharmonie and Stockholm Philharmonic. Winner of the 2009 Grawemeyer Award.


The music of Brett Dean is published by Boosey & Hawkes 

Conducting repertoire

Brett Dean’s career as conductor is blossoming alongside his work as composer and performer, his imaginative programmes usually centred around his own works combined with those of other composers.


Recent conducting highlights include the Sydney Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Concertgebouw Orchestra, Melbourne Symphony, BBC Philharmonic, Gothenburg Symphony, Tonkünstler-Orchester, Northern Sinfonia and as Artist in Residence with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra.


A selection of Brett Dean’s recent and future conducting programmes


Strauss Till Eulenspiegel
Mozart Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat for Violin, Viola and Orchestra
interval
Dean Beggars and Angels


Lutoslawski Sacher Variation for solo cello
Lutoslawski Symphony No.3
interval
Dvorak Cello Concerto in B minor


R. Meale Clouds Now and Then 
Thomas Meadowcroft Peacemaker Tattoo 
Lisa Illean Land's End 
Georges Lentz "Caeli enarrant ..." III 
interval
Brett Dean Engelsflügel 
Anthony Pateras Immediata 


Beethoven Adagio molto e mesto (from Rasumovsky Quartet No.1, Op.59) arr. Dean
Dean Testament
interval
Beethoven Symphony No.3 ‘Eroica’


Jean Sibelius Scènes historiques, Op.25, No.1 ‘All'overtura’
Brett Dean Dramatis Personae
interval
Jean Sibelius Symphony No.3 in C major, Op.52


Brahms Academic Festival Overture
Bruch Double Concerto for viola and clarinet (play/direct)
interval
Dean Ariel’s Music (clarinet concerto)
Brahms Tragic Overture

Brett Dean's Viola Concerto

Commissioned by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic & Sydney Symphony Orchestra.


“Having done so many pieces in recent years that tell an extra-musical story, or have a poetic or literary title, it seemed fitting that this should be a piece that examines first and foremost purely musical ideas... It’s nevertheless an essay in which I inhabit part-sonic and part-lyrical words as in much of my music... I’m treating it the same as a concerto I’d write for any other viola soloist, and certainly want to give myself something that I personally enjoy playing in terms of challenge, expression and virtuosity.”
Brett Dean on his Viola Concerto


Details


Duration: 27 minutes


Instrumentation: 3(I,III=picc,II=picc,afl).2(II=corA).2(II=bcl).2(II=dbn)-3.2.2.1-timp.perc(3)-harp-cel-pft-strings(12.10.8.6.5)


Composition date: 2005


Click here to see the publisher's information on the Viola Concerto


Performances past and future include: BBC Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Sydney Symphony, Radio Symphony Orchestra Berlin, St Louis Symphony, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Danish National Symphony, Vancouver Symphony, Sydney Symphony, Melbourne Symphony, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic, Dresden Philharmonic, Hamburg Philharmonic, Tonkunstler Orchestra, Orchestre National de Lyon, Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg, Residentie Orkest, Trondheim Symphony, Malaysian Philharmonic


Viola Concerto conductors: Marc Albrecht, Baldur Brönnimann, Reinbert de Leeuw, André de Ridder, Olari Elts, Rumon Gamba, Marko Letonja, Hannu Lintu, James MacMillan, Sakari Oramo, Peter Oundjian, David Robertson, Esa-Pekka Salonen, John Storgards, François-Xavier Roth, Bramwell Tovey, Simone Young, Lothar Zagrosek


Click here to watch the performance on YouTube 


Viola Concerto Reviews


“Dean is a top-flight viola player as well as an upwardly mobile composer. His new Viola Concerto is a substantial affair, elegantly proportioned and full of colourful musical imagery." Guardian


"Dean has written something as personal as one would expect. The haunting and arresting sounds are all his own, and bright colours suggest a strong connection to his country’s landscape. Indeed, the peaceful close, in which the previously hectic solo viola emerges purified, evokes a lullaby in which the earth seems to be singing itself to sleep." The Times


“Each element of Dean's brilliant orchestration could be savored, as well as his own virtuosic playing.” Los Angeles Times


“...tightly structured and well-proportioned... Dean is a fine soloist, too, throwing off the blazingly virtuosic passages with unruffled ease while sustaining a strong, full-bodied tone. His orchestration is imaginative, full of evocative colours and striking effects” The Australian


“…Dean has lost none of his virtuosity as a performer, while confirming his reputation as an up-and-coming craftsman-composer… Curiously beautiful, somewhat enigmatic? No question.” Financial Times

Chamber music

Doric Quartet & Brett Dean:
Haydn String Quartet Op.20 No.1
Brett Dean Epitaphs (string quintet)
Brahms Quintet No.2 in G maj Op.111


Doric Quartet & Brett Dean – Ophelia Songs
Haydn String Quartet Op.76 No.65
Brett Dean String Quartet No.2 “And Once I Played Ophelia”
Brahms Ophelia Songs WoO.22 (arr Reimann)
Brahms String Quintet No.2 in G maj Op.111


With Doric Quartet, Brett Dean, SopranoTBC


Brett Dean performs a range of chamber music projects; future highlights include projects with Alban Gerhardt, the Scharoun Ensemble and at the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival.

Conductors

Conductors who have recently conducted Brett Dean’s music include:
Marin Alsop, Andrey Boreyko, Martin Brabbins, Baldur Brönnimann, Oleg Caetani, Sylvain Cambreling, Nicholas Collon, Gustavo Dudamel, Reinbert de Leeuw, Olari Elts, Mark Elder, Thierry Fischer, Rumon Gamba, HK Gruber, Daniel Harding, Manfred Honeck, Vladimir Jurowski, Tonu Kaljuste, Hannu Lintu, James MacMillan, Susanna Mälkki, Andris Nelsons, Jonathan Nott, Sakari Oramo, Andrés Orozco-Estrada, Peter Oundjian, Sir Simon Rattle, Lawrence Renes, David Robertson, François-Xavier Roth, Kwamé Ryan, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Jukka-Pekka Saraste, Lan Shui, Dmitri Slobodeniuk, Thomas Søndergård, Markus Stenz, John Storgårds, Joshua Weilerstein, Hugh Wolff, François Xavier-Roth, Simone Young, Lothar Zagrosek.

A voice of fertile imagination, originality and expressive subtlety.

Chicago Tribune, January 2009

...the two works here show Dean to be a formidable and musical player as well as an impressive composer. The Viola Concerto confirms the impression it made at its first performance… It is one of Dean's most successful orchestral works, an asymmetrical, three-movement structure that pivots about a dark, central scherzo.

Guardian, August 2008

…a towering masterpiece. Multi-layered and rhythmically complex, Fire Music’s imaginative depth, sophistication and sheer impact marks it as one of the most important works to come from an Australian composer.

The Australian, May 2012

Intermusica represents Brett Dean worldwide

Catherine Gibbs
Associate Director
+44 20 7608 9946
cgibbs@intermusica.co.uk

Maebh Lehane
Administrator, Artist Management
+44 20 7608 9924
mlehane@intermusica.co.uk

If you have any queries, please fill in the form below, and we will be in touch soon

All artists

Chansonnier

HK Gruber

Special projects

Charles Hazlewood

Counter-tenor

Tim Mead

Stage director

David Alden

Andreas Homoki

Piano accompanist

Roger Vignoles