March 3, 2016
The L'viv Chamber Orchestra premiered local composer Scott Brickman's Symphony No. 2 (Sinfonia Brevis) at the Philharmonic Hall in L'viv Ukraine on February 10.
“The musicians blew my mind,” said Brickman in a recent interview. Brickman lives in Fort Kent, Maine.
Six months before the event, Brickman had sent his music to the KLK NewMusic for String Orchestra. KLK NewMusic is a group of musicians, composers and musicologists who organize events, master classes, composition projects, and recording sessions in a continuous exchange of collaboration between all participants, according to their website. The University of Maine at Fort Kent music professor was on sabbatical for the spring semester and preparing for a conference in Lithuania focusing on music technology when he received notice that the KLK NewMusic organizers had chosen one of his compositions for Ukrainian event. “I happened to be going to that area of the world for a conference,” said Brickman. Because the two locations are so close, he decided to attend the conference and the concert.
Musicians know Brickman's pieces for their exploration of octatonic scales of alternating half-steps and whole-steps. His Symphony No. 2 (Sinfonia Brevis). The Ukrainian musicians rehearsed the two movements of Brickman's symphony five times before the performance. “The improvement from Sunday to Monday was unbelievable,” Brickman said.
“My Sinfonia Brevis (Symphony #2) for string orchestra is in two short movements of equal duration. A recent interest of mine has been the "popular classics". I am interested in re-imagining them from a type of tabula rasa, that is, taking their basic concept and constructing them as if the original had not existed,” said Brickman.
The northern Maine musician said he took inspiration for the first movement, Valse Triste or “sad waltz”, after a composition by Finnish composer Jean Sibelius (1865-1957). Brickman said he borrowed the rhythm of Sibelius' piece and composed the rest himself. The music of Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) inspired the second movement, Fantastic Dances, which was much more active, said Brickman.
Brickman said Conductor Ferdinand Nazzaro seemed to enjoy the composition. He told Brickman, “Although you have Polish ancestry you write music that sounds so American.” He compared Brickman's music to that of Leonard Bernstein.
Brickman said the concert was free and open to the public. He said the people in Ukraine appear to enjoy orchestral music more commonly than in the United States, and the well-attended concert showed that appreciation. “There were lots of younger music lovers,” said Brickman.
Brickman said it was difficult to describe the experience of hearing an orchestra play his music. “You almost get a funny out-of-body feeling. They were really-really good,” he said.
There was another time Brickman heard his own work in February. Two weeks after his Ukraine trip, musicians with the Society of Composers (SCI) played his English Suite (2013-14) which he wrote for the Sudbury Guitar Trio. This occurred at Marshall University, Huntington, West Virginia.
During his sabbatical, Brickman is working with a computer scientist to explore the theory behind the octatonic scale.
Scott Brickman holds music degrees from the University of Wisconsin and Brandeis University. Since 1997 he has taught at the University of Maine at Fort Kent. His Symphony #1 is recorded by the Kiev Philharmonic and available on the ERM label. His CDs Winter and Construction and Dear Darwin are available on the Ravello label. His forthcoming CD 96 Strings and Two Whistles, featuring performances of his works by Eight Strings & a Whistle and pianist Beth Levin will be released on the Ravello label in August, 2016.