In 1958 I was an undergraduate at the University of California at Berkeley. Hell-bent on becoming a concert pianist and not yet interested in composing – I took my first musical analysis course from a Mr. Andrew Imbrie. What a revelation it was! My eyes and ears were opened to the intricacies of a musical composition. To this point, I had thought that somehow music dropped fully-formed from heaven. I still remember, 40 plus years later, some of the pieces Imbrie had chosen to investigate (Bartok, String Quartet No. 4, Milhaud, Douzieme String Quartet). Andrew’s passion for music, his skil at taking apart a piece – jeweler-like – and admiring its various facets, inspired me to the point where, one year later, I would myself decide to abandon the piano and become a composer.
With this memorial piece I wanted to write something with an analytical flourish that Andrew himself might have enjoyed. So I took the letters of his name which coincided with musical notes – A, D, E, B, E (in the order that they occur) – and used them as my theme. This 9-minute piece is a restless chromatic journey in A-major. As well, I twice quote from his 1947 Sonata for piano. The first – three quarters of the way in, after a climactic moment – is the ghostly theme from the Sonata’s first movement. In the final Postlude the chromatic writhings, now so familiar, are transformed into quietly ecstatic music which rises to a climax affirming at last an uncomplicated A-major tonality. Fantasy on a Cherished Name is dedicated to Barbara Imbrie.