Brett Dean Biography

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.

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 under the batons of Dean and HK Gruber.