As a viola-playing composer Brett Dean is in the elevated company of Bach, Mozart, Schubert, Dvořák, Hindemith and Vaughan Williams. But even if this disc includes two works focusing on Dean’s own instrument – in performances by the composer himself – his impressive work list consists of a wide spectrum of genres, including concertos, orchestral works, chamber music and vocal works. A number of these have been written for the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, of which Dean was a member for 14 years, or for ensembles belonging to it. One such work is the song cycle Winter Songs, released on BIS-CD-1332 in a performance by Daniel Norman, tenor, and the Berlin Philharmonic Wind Quintet.
On the present disc two other ‘Berlin pieces’ are included. Twelve Angry Men, written for the cellists of the orchestra, was inspired by the famous courtroom film with the same name and charts the course of the jury’s heated deliberations. Komarov’s Fall, for full orchestra, was commissioned by Simon Rattle and the Berlin Philharmonic as a companion piece for Holst’s The Planets, and was written in memory of the Soviet cosmonaut Vladimir Komarov, the first person to die in space (in 1957).
These two works are complemented by the solo-piece Intimate Decisions, and the recent and much-acclaimed Viola Concerto, about which Dean himself has said: ‘Above all, it filled me with thoughts about my own relationship with this curiously beautiful, somewhat enigmatic instrument of my choosing. It also inspired thoughts upon the workings of music itself, removed from any sense of external programmatic influences or stories which inform so many of my other pieces.’ Now based in his native Australia, Brett Dean is a central figure in the musical life of the country.
The main part of the present programme was thus recorded in the Concert Hall of the famous Sydney Opera House, the home of the Sydney Symphony, appearing here for the first time on BIS.