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
Title: Eine Frau, die weiß, was sie will Composer: Oscar Strauß Recording: Komische Oper Berlin 2015
Title: Pelleas et Melisande Composer: Claude Debussy Recording: Komische Oper Berlin 2017
Title: Ball im Savoy, Kangaru Composer: Paul Abraham Recording: Komische Oper Berlin 2013
Title: The Yellow Shark, Frank Zappa Ensemble Modern Composer: Three Step, for horn, violin, cello (Cathy Milliken), Earth Plays I-IV Orchestral Work (Cathy Milliken) Recording: Spiral, for a soloist with a shortwave receiver, (Karlheinz Stockhausen) Trim (Cathy Milliken) Shifrorl (Cathy Milliken)
Title: Brahms Symphonies 2,3 and 4 Composer: Brahms, Simone Young and the Hamburg Philharmonic Recording: OehmsClassics
Title: Symphony Nr 9 Composer: Bruckner, Simone Young and the Hamburg Philharmonic Recording: OehmsClassics
Title: Symphony Nr 2 Composer: Gustav Mahler Recording: Simone Young and the Hamburg Philharmonic, OehmsClassics
Title: Der Ring des Nibelungen Composer: Richard Wagner Recording: OehmsClassics
Title: Bernstein: “Glitter and Be Gay”, from Candide (Bernstein) Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Kaiserslautern Saarbrucken, Conductor Daniel Smith (Siobhan Stagg, Soprano)
Title: “Requiem”, (Brahms) Berlin Philharmonic, Conductor Christian Thielemann (Soprano Siobhan Stagg)
Chopin: 24 Preludes Cédric Tiberghien Chopin: 13 Preludes(from the 24 Preludes)Sviatoslav Richter Tokyo 1979 Bach JS: Prelude and Fugue No. 7 in E flat, BWV 852 – Well Tempered Clavier, Book I, Performed by Wanda Landowska, Harpsichord, 1949 Bach JS: Goldberg Variations –Harpsichord, Performed by Wanda Landowska (First Rec 1933)iTunes
“There's no substitute for that very first moment when an idea is manifested. For me it's very important that everything's kind of born at the same moment because a song is words and music and I feel like they shouldn't be separated. That's my idea of a good creation!”iTunes