Dean: Recollections

Program Note

Brett Dean (b.1961)

Recollections (2006)


Recollections is, in effect, about aspects of memory, and to some extent about the somewhat misleading and fickle nature of memory, the tricks that it can play on you; making things worse or better, rosier or bleaker than they in fact were at the time. The titles of the 6 movements give some indication of the different forms of reminiscence that each short piece tries to evoke. Essence features a recurring, somewhat nostalgic clarinet motive that eventually conjures a brief, colorful parade of possible memories. Don't Wake Mother and Incident are both fast, scherzo-like movements. In different ways, they both include lots of secretive scampering after dark, the first more innocent, the latter one decidedly more threatening. Dead of Night is reflective, quiet music of collecting one's thoughts. Relic and Locket both represent old and more distant memories, of past times. Relic has an archaic quality with its use of tuned gongs while Locket uses a quotation from a piano piece by Clara Schumann (Romanza in A Minor), representing an artifact found hidden beneath much dust, in an attic perhaps, something that transports one back in time.


—Brett Dean


Brett Dean, composer/violist (London, England and Melbourne, Australia), combines his composing activities with a rich musical life performing internationally as viola soloist, chamber musician, and conductor with the world’s leading orchestras. He was a member of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra for 15 years, before returning to Australia to concentrate on his growing compositional activities. Today his works are championed by conductors such as Sir Simon Rattle, Markus Stenz, and Daniel Harding, and he has received commissions from the Berlin Philharmonic, Concertgebouw Orchestra, and Los Angeles Philharmonic, among other leading orchestras. In 2009, he won the prestigious Grawemeyer Award for his violin concerto The Lost Art of Letter Writing. In June 2017, his second opera, Hamlet, was premiered at Glyndebourne Festival Opera to great acclaim, directed by Neil Armfield with libretto by Matthew Jocelyn and conducted by Vladimir Jurowski. His first full-length opera, Bliss, received a highly-acclaimed production by Opera Australia in Sydney, Melbourne, and at the Edinburgh Festival, and in a new production at the Hamburg Opera. His String Quintet Epitaphs has been performed at the Cheltenham Festival, Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, La Jolla SummerFest, and the Cologne Philharmonie. Brett was Creative Chair at Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich and Artist in Residence with Sydney Symphony Orchestra (2016-18), and has been in residence with the Radio Symphony Orchestra Berlin since 2017. Brett’s music has been recorded for BIS, Chandos, Warner Classics, ECM Records and ABC Classics. Brett’s Viola Concerto has also been released on BIS with the Sydney Symphony, with Brett as soloist. A DVD of Hamlet has been released by Glyndebourne. Previous Yellow Barn Composer-in-Residence (2012)