Brett Dean studied in his hometown, 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, Simone Young, Daniel Harding, 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 Hamletwas premiered at Glyndebourne Festival Opera to great acclaim, winning both the 2018 South Bank Sky Arts Awards and International Opera Awards for Best New 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, the Australian Chamber Orchestra and the Australian National Academy of Music. 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.
Recent highlights include the world premiere of Dean’s Piano Concerto Gneixendorfer Musik – eine Winterreise for Jonathan Biss, premiered by Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra in February 2020, in a festival celebrating Dean’s music; Dean conducts the French premiere with the Orchestre National de Lyon in October 2020. In November 2019 Dean’s opera Hamlet received its German premiere at Cologne Opera, in a new production by librettist Matthew Jocelyn and is programmed for its US premiere at The Metropolitan Opera in 2022. In the 2020/21 season, Dean begins a three-year tenure as Composer in Residence at the London Philharmonic Orchestra.
Brett Dean’s music has been recorded for BIS, Chandos, Warner Classics, ECM Records and ABC Classics. Highlights include a BIS release in 2016 of works including Shadow Music, Testament, Short Stories and Etudenfest performed by Swedish Chamber Orchestra conducted by Dean; his Viola Concerto has also been released on BIS with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. The DVD of Hamletwas released by Glyndebourne in June 2018 and won a Gramophone Award in 2019.