viola, composition

Brett Dean studied in Brisbane before moving to Germany in 1984 where he was a permanent member of the Berlin Philharmonic for fourteen years. Dean returned to Australia in 2000 to concentrate on his growing compositional activities, and his works now attract considerable attention, championed by conductors such as Sir Simon Rattle, Markus Stenz and Daniel Harding. One of the most internationally performed composers of his generation, much of Dean’s work draws from literary, political or visual stimuli, including a number of compositions inspired by paintings of his wife Heather Betts. Dean also performs widely, as solo violist, chamber musician and conductor, and these performing relationships inform and enhance his world as a composer.

Brett Dean began composing in 1988, initially working 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. He has since been commissioned by the Berlin Philharmonic, Concertgebouw Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, BBC Proms, Lucerne Festival, Stockholm Philharmonic, Cologne Philharmonie, BBC Symphony, Melbourne Symphony and Sydney Symphony Orchestras among others. In 2009 Dean won composition’s most prestigious prize, the 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.

Recent premieres have included Dean’s first full-length opera Bliss (libretto by Amanda Holden after the novel by Peter Carey), in a highly-acclaimed production by Opera Australia which was described by The Australian newspaper as “a success in every way”. Following the premiere performances in Sydney and Melbourne, directed by Neil Armfield and conducted by Elgar Howarth, Bliss is performed at the 2010 Edinburgh Festival by Opera Australia, and in a new production opening the Hamburg Opera’s 2010/11 season conducted by Simone Young. Elsewhere, Dean’s String Quintet Epitaphs is premiered this season with performances at the Cheltenham Festival, Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, La Jolla SummerFest and the Cologne Philharmonie. A sonata for violin and piano, commissioned for Midori, is premiered in Stockholm and at London’s Wigmore Hall.

Brett Dean combines his composing activities with a rich musical life performing internationally as soloist, chamber musician and conductor. Since 2005 Dean has been performing his own Viola Concerto, with orchestras including the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Sydney Symphony, Orchestre National de Lyon, Hamburg Philharmonic, BBC Philharmonic and Dresden Philharmonic. 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 and SWR Symphonieorchester Stuttgart as part of a 2007/8 season Artistic Residency. Dean was Artistic Director of the Australian National Academy of Music in Melbourne until June 2010.

From the 10/11 season Dean will be Artist in Residence with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra where he will conduct and perform regularly, and elsewhere he conducts the Gothenburg Symphony, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Auckland Philharmonia, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group and is soloist in his Viola Concerto with the Residentie Orkest. He conducts and performs in chamber music and as soloist throughout the 2010 Cheltenham Festival and at Norway’s Risor Festival where he is also Composer in Residence. In February 2011 the Wigmore Hall present a Brett Dean Composer Day in which Dean performs within a range of chamber music programmes exploring his music.

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, Carlo and the Pastoral Symphony, performed by the Swedish Chamber Orchestra and the Raschèr Saxophone Quartet under the batons of Dean and HK Gruber. His 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).

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