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Andrew Imbrie

By Elliott Carter

Andrew Imbrie was rightly often acclaimed a leading American composer of the late 20th century generation. Prolific, he composed two operas, three piano concertos, concertos for flute, violin, and cello, and much chamber music. I remember after all these years how impressed I was by his 1st string quartet in 1943. It was personal, original, with a high standard of imagination, skill, and eloquence.

Although born in New York, Andrew’s music has not been performed here as much as it deserves, while in California, where he spent most of his life, because of frequent performances, he is widely known.

His vision of music, developed from his great teacher Roger Sessions was one of great devotion, responsibility to its vast new possibilities for expression, and fascinating sounds. He was not a composer who used the new 20th century musical vocabulary to produce startling effects, mystical trances, or imagined primitivism.

He found new coherences and a wide range of musical expression. His string quartets are full of joy and pleasure, while his beautiful Requiem, for his late son, is deeply touching and tragic.

I remember with great affection our times in Rome together and later in Tokyo where he, having learned Japanese in the army, lived with his wife in a little suburban house, sleeping on the floor and learning to play the Japanese koto.

Read at the Academy Dinner Meeting on April 9, 2008.

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