Brett Dean

born on 23/10/1961 in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Brett Dean

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

Brett Dean (born 23 October 1961 in Brisbane) is a contemporary Australian composer, violist and conductor.


Brett Dean was raised and educated in Brisbane. He started learning violin at the age of eight, and later studied viola with Elizabeth Morgan and John Curro at the Queensland Conservatorium, where he graduated in 1982 with the Conservatorium Medal for the highest achieving Student of the Year.[1] In 1981 he was a prize winner in the ABC Symphony Australia Young Performers Awards. From 1985 to 1999, Dean was a violist in the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. In 2000, he decided to pursue a career as a freelance artist and returned to Australia. As a composer and musician, he is a regularly invited guest to many professional concert stages around the world.

Brett Dean was Artistic Director of the Australian National Academy of Music in Melbourne until June 2010 when his brother, Paul Dean, took up the post.[2]

The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra celebrated Brett Dean's 50th birthday, and his contribution to music as composer, performer and teacher, in its 2011 Metropolis Festival. [3]


Dean's clarinet concerto Ariel's Music won an award from the UNESCO International Rostrum of Composers in 1995. Winter Songs for tenor and wind quintet received the Paul Lowin Song Cycle Prize in 2001; Moments of Bliss for orchestra was named Best Composition at the Australian Classical Music Awards in 2005.[4] In 2002-2003, Dean was artist-in-residence with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and composer-in-residence at the Cheltenham Festival. In 2007-2008, he became artist-in-residence with the Radio-Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart des SWR.

He has been awarded an honorary doctorate from Griffith University in Brisbane.

On 1 December 2008, he was awarded the 2009 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition[5] for his violin concerto, The Lost Art of Letter Writing.[6]

In September 2011, he was composer-in-residence at the Trondheim Chamber Music Festival.[7]



Dean began composing in 1988 initially focusing on experimental film and radio projects as well as improvisational performance. Since then, he has created numerous compositions, mainly orchestral or chamber music as well as concertos for several solo instruments. His most successful work is Carlo for strings, sample and tape, inspired by the music of Carlo Gesualdo. On 7 September 2008 his work Polysomnography for wind quintet and piano received its world premiere at the Lucerne Festival; on 2 October 2008 Simon Rattle conducted the first performance of the orchestral song cycle Songs of Joy in Philadelphia. His first opera, Bliss, based on the novel by Peter Carey, premiered at Opera Australia in 2010.

Dean's compositional style is known for creating dynamic soundscapes and treating single instrumental parts with complex rhythms. He shapes musical extremes, from harsh explosions to inaudibility. Modern playing techniques are as characteristic for his style as an elaborate percussion scoring, often enriched with objects from everyday life. Much of Dean's work draws from literary, political or visual stimuli, transporting a non-musical message. Environmental problems are the subject of Water Music and Pastoral Symphony, while Vexations and Devotions deal with the absurdities of a modern society obsessed with information.

In April 2013 "The Last Days of Socrates" was premiered by the Berlin Philharmonic.[8] The work for bass-baritone, choir, and orchestra was a co-commission of the Rundfunkchor Berlin, the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

List of compositions


  • One of a Kind Ballet in three acts for solo cello and tape (1998)
  • Bliss Opera (2010)


  • Carlo Music for strings, sampler and tape (1997)
  • Beggars and Angels Music for orchestra (1999)
  • Amphitheatre Scene for orchestra (2000)
  • Etüdenfest for string orchestra with off-stage piano (2000)
  • Game over for instrumental soloists, string orchestra and electronics (2000)
  • Pastoral Symphony for chamber orchestra (2000)
  • Dispersal for orchestra (2001)
  • Shadow Music for small orchestra (2002)
  • Between Moments Music for orchestra, in memory of Cameron Retchford (2003)
  • Ceremonial for orchestra (2003)
  • Moments of Bliss for orchestra (2004)
  • Parteitag Music for orchestral groups and video (2004/05)
  • Short Stories Five interludes for string orchestra (2005)
  • Komarov's Fall for orchestra (2005/06)
  • Testament Music for orchestra, after version for 12 violas (2008)


  • Ariel's Music for clarinet and orchestra (1995)
  • Viola Concerto (2004)
  • Water Music for saxophone quartet and chamber orchestra (2004)
  • The Lost Art of Letter Writing for violin and orchestra (2006) Winner of the 2009 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition.[5] Written for and first performed by Frank Peter Zimmermann in 2007. The four movements of the concerto are prefaced by four 19th century letters, written by Johannes Brahms (a love letter to Clara Schumann[6]), Vincent van Gogh, Hugo Wolf and Ned Kelly, an Australian bushranger.[9] Music by Brahms and Wolf is quoted in the first and third movements, respectively. The playing time of the concerto is approximately 34 minutes.
  • The Siduri Dances for solo flute and string orchestra (2007)

Chamber music

  • Fledermaus-Overture by Johann Strauss II, arr. for octet (1988)
  • Wendezeit (Homage to F.C.) for 5 violas (1988)
  • some birthday... for 2 violas and cello (1992)
  • Night Window Music for clarinet, viola and piano (1993)
  • Till Eulenspiegels lustige Streiche by Richard Strauss, arr. for octet (1995)
  • Twelve Angry Men for 12 cellos (1996; inspired by the 1957 Sidney Lumet film 12 Angry Men)
  • Voices of Angels for strings and piano (1996)
  • Intimate Decisions for solo viola (1996)
  • Night's Journey for 4 trombones (1997)
  • One of a Kind for viola and tape (1998, 2012)
  • Three Pieces for Eight Horns (1998)
  • hundreds and thousands for tape (1999)
  • Huntington Eulogy for cello and piano (2001)
  • Testament for 12 violas (2002)
  • Eclipse for string quartet (2003)
  • Three Caprichos after Goya for solo guitar (2003)
  • Equality for piano (with speaking part) (2004)
  • Demons for solo flute (2004)
  • Prayer for piano (with speaking part) (2005)
  • Recollections for ensemble (2006)
  • Polysomnography Music for piano and wind quartet (2007)
  • Skizzen für Siegbert (Sketches for Siegbert) for solo viola (2011)
  • Electric Preludes for electric violin and ensemble (September 2012)


  • Katz and Spatz for eight-part mixed chorus (1999/2002)
  • Bell and Anti-Bell (From Parables, Lullabies and Secrets) for children's choir and small orchestra (2001)
  • Tracks and Traces Four Songs for children's choir, based on texts by indigenous Australians (2002)
  • Vexations and Devotions for choirs and large orchestra (2005)
  • Now Comes the Dawn for mixed chorus (2007)


  • Winter Songs for tenor and wind quintet (2000)
  • Buy Now, Pay Later! by Tim Freedman, arr. for voice and ensemble (2002)
  • Sparge la morte for solo cello, vocal consort and tape (2006)
  • Poems and Prayers for mezzo-soprano and piano (2006)
  • Wolf-Lieder for soprano and ensemble (2006)
  • Songs of Joy (from Bliss) for baritone and orchestra (2008)


  1. Queensland Conservatorium: Brett Dean
  2. "ANAM Announces New Artistic Director" at Australian Stage, 26 March 2010
  3. 2011 Metropolis Festival
  4. APRA Classical Music Awards 2005 Winners
  5. 5.0 5.1 Grawemeyer Awards
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Keynotes", Limelight, February 2009, p. 10
  7. Brett Dean, Trondheim Chamber Music Festival]
  8. Berliner Philharmoniker
  9. Interview of Brett Dean from Intermusica's April 2007 podcast, hosted by Meurig Bowen

External links

  • Australian Music Centre
  • Biography, Boosey & Hawkes
  • Brett Dean's Homepage with his agency, Intermusica
  • Complete live performance of Brett Dean's violin concerto The Lost Art of Letter Writing by Australian violinist Sophie Rowell with Adelaide Symphony Orchestra conducted by Arvo Volmer
This page was last modified 18.03.2014 02:08:51

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