There wouldn't be too many people in the world daring enough to leave a permanent position with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra after 15 years to embark on a freelance career. But after winning a seat in the viola section at age 23, Brisbane-born Brett Dean wasn't going to settle into the position for life, as many would. In 1988 he started to compose, firstly music for film and radio projects, before breakthrough pieces for large ensembles in 1995 (Ariel's Music) and 1997 (Carlo). In 2000 Dean decided to return to Australia to concentrate on his composition career. Without the distraction of playing for the one of the world's greatest orchestras, his output rapidly increased, with many large scale works being completed. His most notable works are concertos for Clarinet, Viola, and Violin, as well as his opera Bliss, based on Peter Carey's novel set in Brisbane in the 1980s.
Almost all of Dean's works carry extra-musical titles, giving clues to the inspiration for each piece. His inspiration ranges from the usual suspects of art, literature and scenic countryside, to a 16th-century Italian Prince famous for killing his wife, and a homage to the lost art of writing letters. The Lost Art of Letter Writing is Dean's violin concerto, which takes it's inspiration from letters written by Johannes Brahms, Hugo Wolf, Vincent Van Gogh and Ned Kelly. Dean was awarded the Grawemeyer Award for this piece, often dubbed the Nobel Prize of the musical world, joining recipients such as Ligeti, Boulez, Lutoslawski and Birtwhistle. His music is renowned for it's rhythmic complexity and specific instructions for performers.
Despite the allusion to death in the title, it is only the third of Huntington Eulogy's three movements which is written as a tribute. The first two movements take their inspiration from The Huntington Estate, near Mudgee in New South Wales, with the vast, mysterious expanse of the night sky being contrasted against a beautiful summers' sunrise which has been interrupted by a swarm of bees. The third movement is a simple tribute to a winemaker at Huntington, linking themes from the previous two movements to symbolise his love of the natural world.