Brett Dean - Composer

Brett Dean studied in Brisbane before moving to Germany in 1984 where he was a member of the Berlin Philharmonic for fourteen years, during which time he began composing. His music is championed by many of the leading conductors and orchestras worldwide, including Sir Simon Rattle, Vladimir Jurowski, David Robertson, Andris Nelsons, Marin Alsop and Sakari Oramo. Much of Dean’s work draws from literary, political, environmental or visual stimuli, including a number of compositions inspired by artwork by his wife Heather Betts.


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 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 Australia Council, acknowledging his sustained and significant contribution to Australia’s musical scene. In June 2017 his second opera Hamlet was premiered at Glyndebourne Festival Opera to great acclaim, winning both the 2018 South Bank Sky Arts Awards and International Opera Awards for opera.


Dean enjoys a busy performing career as violist and conductor, 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, including projects with the Doric Quartet, Scharoun Ensemble and Alban Gerhardt. Dean’s imaginative conducting programmes usually centre around his own works combined with other composers and highlights include his appointment as Creative Chair at Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich 2017/18, projects with the BBC Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Concertgebouw Orchestra, Melbourne Symphony, Sydney Symphony, BBC Philharmonic, Gothenburg Symphony, Toronto Symphony, Tonkünstler-Orchester, Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra and as Artist in Residence with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra.


Dean is 2018/19 Composer in Residence of Radio Symphony Orchestra Berlin, which sees Dean join the orchestra as soloist in his Viola Concerto, and a focus on Dean’s orchestral and chamber works throughout the season. Dean also continues as Artist in Residence with Sydney Symphony Orchestra across 2016-2018.


Highlights of 2018/19 include the world premiere of Dean’s Cello Concerto for Alban Gerhardt, which will be premiered by Sydney Symphony conducted by David Robertson in August 2018 and receives its European premiere from the Berlin Philharmonic conducted by Sakari Oramo in October 2018. In April 2019 a new chamber work will be premiered at New York’s Lincoln Center and London’s Wigmore Hall, and Dean’s String Quartet No.3 will be premiered by the Doric String Quartet in June 2019 in an Australian tour.


Dean opens the season performing the UK premiere of Approach: Prelude to a Canon at the BBC Proms with Swedish Chamber Orchestra, before performing the German premiere at Rheingau Festival, where he is 2018 artist in focus. Elsewhere this season Dean joins Radio Symphony Orchestra Berlin and Helsinki Philharmonic to perform his Viola Concerto and conducts a number of orchestras including Sydney Symphony, Adelaide Symphony, Swedish Chamber Orchestra and the Australian National Academy of Music.


Brett Dean’s music has been recorded for BIS, Chandos, Warner Classics, ECM Records and ABC Classics, with a BIS release in 2016 of works including Shadow Music, Testament, Short Stories and Etudenfest performed by Swedish Chamber Orchestra conducted by Dean. Dean’s Viola Concerto has also been released on BIS with the Sydney Symphony, and a DVD of Hamlet was released by Glyndebourne in June 2018.