April 6, 1921 - December 5, 2007
born in New York, NY, composed during the Contemporary period
Initially something of an American Bartók, Andrew Imbrie matured into a second-generation Roger Sessions, writing music of formal and linear clarity and classical development patterns, no matter how dense and atonal it would become.
Following piano and composition studies with a number of figures, including Pauline and Leo Ornstein, Nadia Boulanger, and Robert Casadesus, Imbrie fell under the spell of Sessions at Princeton, from which he graduated in 1942. After a tour of duty in the U.S. Army, Imbrie followed Sessions to the University of California, Berkeley, for a master's program (1946-1947). After a 1947-1949 fellowship at the American Academy in Rome, Imbrie returned to Berkeley to teach; he remained there until retiring in 1991. His curriculum vita set the standard for academy-based composers of his generation and those following; it includes several visiting professorships and composer residencies (including at Tanglewood, 1991); two Guggenheim fellowships; commissions from the Koussevitzky, Fromm, Ford, and Naumburg foundations and San Francisco Opera; and election to the National Institute of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, among many other honors.
In an era in which American academic composers tended to imitate Webern's use of tiny motivic cells, Imbrie remained committed to longer thematic lines and traditional structural schemes. Nevertheless, his works were metrically complex, harmonically dense, and forcefully dramatic. At the same time, he could absorb whatever outside elements might be appropriate to the work at hand; his opera Angle of Repose, for example, employs some folk idioms without departing from Imbrie's customary abstract style. ~ James Reel, Rovi