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10 Commissions: Brett Dean

10 Commissions: Brett Dean

As a musical celebration of the 10th Anniversary of Melbourne Recital Centre, 10 composers have each created a new work to be performed at the Centre throughout 2019.

The 10 composers represent a diverse range of musical styles but are unified by their critical acclaim and dedication to their craft. The series features an outstanding line-up of composers and performers, with each work designed to connect audience and performer in an intimate and personal way, making a significant contribution to the repertoire, across a variety of styles.

The third individual to premiere their composition is acclaimed composer, viola player and former ANAM Artistic Director Brett Dean. His composition will be performed by Doric String Quartet (U.K.) in Elisabeth Murdoch Hall in June.

Brett Dean

Brett 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. His music is championed by many of the leading conductors and orchestras worldwide, including Sir Simon Rattle, Vladimir Jurowski, David Robertson, 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.

What is your new composition about?

Well, first and foremost it's a string quartet, my third, and for me as a string player that means getting to grips once more with all that this extraordinary medium can offer. In many ways it's written as a response to the enthralling experience of seeing and hearing the wonderful Doric String Quartet in action. 

Beyond that it bears the deliberately enigmatic subtitle "Hidden Agendas" and is a reflection upon the strangely tense socio-political climate we seem to find ourselves in at the moment; this age of "fake news" and seemingly constant outrage on all sides. The titles of the movements such as "Hubris" and "On-message" bear that out further, though there's no specific narrative at play. 

Where did you get your inspiration from?

I find inspiration both from the world around me, conversations, reading, listening, etc. as well as through music itself. The nutting out of musical challenges and conundrums remains a never-ending source of fascination for me. Somehow I can relate to that wonderful Edward Elgar quote: "My idea is that there is music in the air, music all around us, the world is full of it and you simply take as much as you require." One can hear/sense musical-dramatic potential in all sorts of interactions, events, thoughts, other forms of artistic expression, the natural world. In this case it's both musical ideas for their own sake as well as somewhat oblique aspects of current affairs.

What musical styles influences you when creating this piece? 

Most of all I hope it's my own style that has been the strongest influence, though during the writing process, memorable concert experiences of chamber music by George Benjamin, Harrison Birtwistle, Elliott Carter and Olga Neuwirth also provided timely input and provoked strong reactions.

Brett Dean premieres his new composition with the Doric String Quartet on Tuesday 11 and Saturday 15 June as part of Musica Viva's International Concert Season. Click here to discover more

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