Brett Dean studied in Brisbane before moving to Germany in 1984 where he was violist and permanent member of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra for fourteen years. He 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 strong international recognition. In 2000 Dean returned to his native Australia to concentrate on his composition, and he now shares his time between homes in Melbourne and Berlin.
Now one of the most internationally performed composers of his generation, much of Dean’s work draws from literary, political, environmental or visual stimuli, including a number of compositions inspired by paintings by his wife Heather Betts. His music is championed by many of the leading conductors and orchestras worldwide, including Sir Simon Rattle, Andris Nelsons, Marin Alsop, David Robertson and Simone Young.
In 2009, Brett Dean won the Grawemeyer Award for music composition for his violin concerto The Lost Art of Letter Writing and received the Elise L. Stoeger Prize from the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, New York in 2011. His first opera, Bliss, was commissioned and given its premiere in 2010 by Opera Australia in Melbourne, and has since received further performances in Sydney, Hamburg and at the Edinburgh International Festival.
Alongside his composing, Dean enjoys a busy career as a viola player, and is now also enjoying a blossoming conducting career with numerous engagements across the globe.
In November 2011 the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic presented a two-week ‘Composer Festival’ which included the first performance of Dean’s large-scale orchestral piece Fire Music, conducted by Sakari Oramo. Fire Music will receive its U.S. Premiere at the Cabrillo Festival on Saturday, August 9, 2014. During the 2009 Cabrillo Festival Dean’s Moments of Bliss and Amphitheatre received their U.S. Premieres with the composer in residence.