#05 Brett Dean, Composer, Violist, Conductor
“I think the most important thing is that my work comes from me as a performer. The playing aspect is very profound and very important and I can’t really imagine doing one without the other.”
In two decades, the musician Brett Dean has risen from being an orchestral violist who once wrote music on the side, to one of the world’s most celebrated composers.
In fact, Brett Dean’s music is championed internationally by orchestras and leading conductors, including Simon Rattle, Andris Nelsons, Simone Young and Daniel Harding.
He grew up and was educated in Brisbane before moving to Germany in 1984, where he became a member of the prestigious Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. He remained with the orchestra for 15 years. It was in 1988 that he began composing, initially working on experimental film and radio projects. He returned to Australia in 2000, to concentrate on composing and also served as Artistic Director of the Australian National Academy of Music in Melbourne until 2010.
Among Brett’s most widely-known works are “Carlo,” for strings, sampler and tape, inspired by the music of Carlo Gesualdo, “Beggars and Angels,” commissioned by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, “Pastoral Symphony,” written for Ensemble Modern, and “Testament,” for 12 violas of the Berlin Philharmonic.
His first opera, “Bliss,” was based on a book of the same name by the Australian writer Peter Carey. In 2017, Brett’s second opera, “Hamlet,” was premiered – to great acclaim – at the Glyndebourne Festival.
Brett says a lot of his inspiration comes from having shared his life with a creative artist – his wife Heather is a painter. Observing Heather dealing with and solving artistic challenges has, he says, been incredibly important for him.
It was a cold winter’s morning a few weeks back, that I joined Brett Dean in his Berlin studio to chat about his work, living in Berlin – at least part-time – for over 30 years, and how the sound of cricket on the radio, brings him instantly back to Australia.
Title:The Lost Art of Letter Writing – Violin Concerto Performers:Violin Frank Peter Zimmermann Boston Symphony Orchestra, conductor Markus Stenz
Title:Carlo (version for live chorus and strings) Performers:BBC Singers/BBC Symphony Orchestra
Title:Three Memorials for Orchestra & Between Moments (Music for Orchestra 2003) Performers:Queensland Youth Orchestra
Title:Pastoral Symphony Performers:Swedish Chamber Orchestra
Title:Hamlet Diffraction Performers:Allison Bell, soprano Allan Clayton, tenor BBC Symphony Orchestra, Conductor Joshua Weilerstein
Title:Wendezeit for five violas Performers:Brett Dean