Robert Helps

Biography

Born: September 23, 1928; Passaic, NJ   Died: November 24, 2001; Tampa, FL  
Robert Helps was the cinematic equivalent of a distinguished featured player rather than a star in America's post-WWII avant-garde, both as a composer and as a pianist. He matriculated at Columbia University in 1947, then transferred to U.C. Berkeley in 1949 where he completed his degree in 1951. He was also a piano student at the Juilliard School, but more importantly with Abby Whiteside as a private student. During his two years at Berkeley he Read more studied composition and theory with Roger Sessions, and again privately thereafter, the most powerful influence on his music. Helps' first notable work was Two Songs on texts by Melville for soprano (1950), followed by a string quartet in 1951, and a piano Fantasy in 1952. He composed the Adagio slow movement of Symphony No. 1 in 1953, which received a Fromm Foundation Award and a performance by Leopold Stokowski and the Symphony of the Air (the former NBCSO before its dissolution in 1955, and forerunner of the American SO). Helps added the bracketing quick movements in 1955, which received a Naumburg Award and subsequent recording by Zoltan Rozsnyai and the Columbia SO (made in Boston).

Many of his instrumental works were written for piano, among them 3 Etudes (1956), Starscape (1958), Recollections (1959), Portrait and Solo (both in 1960), Quartet (1971), three Homages (to Fauré, Rachmaninov, and Ravel; 1972), Nocturne (1973), Music for the Left Hand (1974), and Valse mirage (1977). He also composed Cortège for orchestra (1963), two piano concertos (1969, 1976), Saccade for piano 4-hands (1967), a frequently played Nocturne for string quartet (1966), several violin and piano works, a piano trio (1957), a quintet for flute, clarinet, piano, violin, and cello (1975), and the song cycle Gossamer Moon on poems by James Purdy for soprano and orchestra (1977), to be sung by Bethany Beardslee, who specialized in challenging new music, and whom Helps frequently accompanied in concert. His more recent large work was Symphony No. 2, commissioned by the Institute for American Music, and introduced by The Florida Orchestra in February 2000. As a composer, he received awards, fellowships, or commissions from all the major foundations (Ford, Guggenheim, NEA, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and Thorne, in addition to Fromm and the IAM). His music -- which Eric Salzman categorized as "American expressionism [that] traces back to Ruggles and Varèse, the influence of Schoenberg, and the personality of Sessions" -- has been played in turn by the late William Masselos, fellow composer David del Tredici, and Alan Feinberg.

As a concert artist he focused on difficult contemporary works (notably by Milton Babbitt, George Perle, Mel Powell, and Sessions), and made recordings for eight different labels including RCA/BMG, DGG, Columbia/Sony, New World, Argo, and CRI. In addition to recitals with Beardslee, Helps also concertized with Aaron Copland, violinists Isidore Cohen and Rudolf Kolisch, and soprano Phyllis Curtin.

He began teaching at the San Francisco Conservatory, Stanford University, and Berkeley simultaneously (1968 - 1970). He moved next to the New England Conservatory (1970 - 1972), then to the Manhattan School and Princeton (1972 - 1978), and in 1980 became professor of music at the University of South Florida in Tampa, where he was teaching applied piano as head of the keyboard department at his death in November 2001. Read less
Browse 1-25 of 28 Available Recordings
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  • 1.
    Close Connections / Garrick Ohlsson
    Label: Bridge   Catalog: 9380 Release Date: 12/11/2012   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Louis Weingarden,  Robert Helps,  Stefan Wolpe,  William Hibbard  ... 
    Performer:  Garrick Ohlsson
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  • 2.
    Rarities Of Piano Music At Schloss Vor Husum   Vol  22
    Label: Danacord   Catalog: 709 Release Date: 11/08/2011  
    Composer:  Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach,  Stephen Heller,  Richard Wagner,  Ferruccio Busoni  ... 
    Performer:  Marc-André Hamelin,  Jean-Frédéric Neuburger,  Ian Fountain,  Michail Lifits  ... 
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  • 3.
    Helps: Chamber Music With Piano / Helps, Atos Trio, Spectrum Concerts Berlin
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8559696 Release Date: 09/27/2011   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Robert Helps,  Felix Mendelssohn,  John Ireland,  Francis Poulenc  ... 
    Performer:  Annette von Hehn,  Thomas Hoppe,  Frank Dodge,  Naomi Niskala  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Spectrum Concerts Berlin,  ATOS Trio
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  • 4.
    Label: Composers Recordings, Inc. (Cri)   Catalog: 383 Release Date: 02/01/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Robert Helps,  Thomas Moore,  Raoul Pleskow,  Arthur Shepherd
    Performer:  Genevieve Chinn,  Allen Brings,  Vivien Harvey Slater
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  • 5.
    Label: Composers Recordings, Inc. (Cri)   Catalog: 411 Release Date: 02/01/2011   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Virgil Thomson,  Robert Helps
    Conductor:  James Bolle,  Zoltán Rozsnyai
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  New Hampshire Symphony Orchestra,  Columbia Symphony Orchestra
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  • 6.
    The American Romantic / Alan Feinberg
    Label: Decca   Catalog: 430330 Release Date: 03/03/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Amy Marcy Beach,  Robert Helps,  Felix Mendelssohn,  Louis Moreau Gottschalk
    Performer:  Alan Feinberg
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  • 7.
    Helps: Orchestral Works / Wiedrich, Curtis, Yordanova, Painter, Et Al
    Label: Albany Records   Catalog: 1079 Release Date: 01/13/2009   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Robert Helps
    Performer:  Joanna Curtis,  Michelle Painter,  Ann Satterfield,  Grace Juliano  ... 
    Conductor:  William Wiedrich
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  University of South Florida Symphony Orchestra
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  • 8.
    Insomnimania
    Label: Koch International Classics   Catalog: 7734 Release Date: 06/24/2008   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  William Bolcom,  Robert Helps,  Raymond Scott,  Eric Richards  ... 
    Performer:  Jenny Lin
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  • 9.
    Naked Tango - Satie, Helps, Nazareth, Et Al / Svetozar Ivanov
    Label: Gega New   Catalog: 327 Release Date: 02/19/2008   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Jean-Philippe Rameau,  Samuel Barber,  Rodion Shchedrin,  Igor Stravinsky  ... 
    Performer:  Svetozar Ivanov
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  • 10.
    Robert Helps: Works For Piano, Vol 2 / Naomi Niskala
    Label: Albany Records   Catalog: 958 Release Date: 09/18/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Robert Helps
    Performer:  Naomi Niskala
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  • 11.
    Robert Helps Complete Piano Music, Vol 1 / Naomi Niskala
    Label: Albany Records   Catalog: 925 Release Date: 05/08/2007   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Robert Helps,  Emmanuel Chabrier,  Felix Mendelssohn,  Henri Duparc  ... 
    Performer:  Naomi Niskala
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  • 12.
    Sound Vessels - Carter, Helps, Etc / Kluksdahl, Et Al
    Label: Centaur Records   Catalog: 2765 Release Date: 06/27/2006   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Elliott Carter,  Richard Wernick,  Robert Helps,  Augusta Read Thomas
    Performer:  Noreen Cassidy-Polera,  Scott Kluksdahl
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  • 13.
    A Tribute To Andrew Imbrie / Hampton, Et Al
    Label: Albany Records   Catalog: 766 Release Date: 07/26/2005   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Andrew Imbrie,  Mario Davidovsky,  Robert Helps,  John Harbison  ... 
    Performer:  Marc Teicholz,  Bonnie Hampton,  Mack McCray,  Anne-Francis Dillon  ... 
    Conductor:  Nicole A. Paiement
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  San Francisco Conservatory New Music Ensemble
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  • 14.
    New Waltzes For Piano / Eric Moe
    Label: Albany Records   Catalog: 689 Release Date: 11/30/2004   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Ronald Caltabiano,  Anthony Cornicello,  Virgil Thomson,  Matthew Rosenblum  ... 
    Performer:  Eric Moe
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  • 15.
    Music By My Friends - Copland, Helps, Et Al / Bennett Lerner
    Label: Albany Records   Catalog: 695/96 Release Date: 10/26/2004   Number of Discs: 2
    Composer:  Tison Street,  Aaron Copland,  Christopher Berg,  Chester Biscardi  ... 
    Performer:  Bennett Lerner,  Christopher Berg
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  • 16.
    American Classics - Helps: Shall We Dance, Etc / Helps, Et A
    Label: Naxos   Catalog: 8559199 Release Date: 03/16/2004   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Robert Helps,  John Ireland
    Performer:  Janine Jansen,  Ron Schaaper,  Daniel Blumenthal,  Hartmut Rohde  ... 
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Berlin Spectrum Concerts
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  • 17.
    Lopatnikoff, Helps, Thomson, Kurka: Works / Albany Symphony
    Label: Albany Records   Catalog: 591 Release Date: 07/29/2003   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Robert Kurka,  Virgil Thomson,  Robert Helps,  Nikolai Lopatnikoff
    Performer:  Alan Feinberg
    Conductor:  David Alan Miller
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Albany Symphony Orchestra
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  • 18.
    New Music For The Piano - Dahl, Babbit, Perle, Et Al / Helps
    Label: Composers Recordings, Inc. (Cri)   Catalog: 874 Release Date: 05/29/2001   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Josef Alexander,  Earl Kim,  Mark Brunswick,  Joseph Prostakoff  ... 
    Performer:  Robert Helps
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  • 19.
    Solo Flights - Composers Collaborative
    Label: Composers Recordings, Inc. (Cri)   Catalog: 864 Release Date: 11/21/2000   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Jed Distler,  Virgil Thomson,  Andrew Violette,  Leopold Godowsky  ... 
    Performer:  Jed Distler,  Andrew Violette,  Robert Helps,  Kathleen Supové  ... 
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  • 20.
    Stravinsky: Four Etudes Op 7;  Berg, Helps, Martin / Watkins
    Label: Aca Digital   Catalog: 20008 Release Date: 07/25/2000   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Frank Martin,  Alban Berg,  Robert Helps,  Igor Stravinsky
    Performer:  David Watkins
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  • 21.
    Merit - Contemporary American Piano Trios Vol 2
    Label: Music & Arts Programs Of America   Catalog: 4933 Release Date: 04/25/2000   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Robert Helps,  Mel Powell,  Olly Wilson,  Ursula Mamlok  ... 
    Performer:  Miwako Watanabe,  Nathan Schwartz,  Bonnie Hampton
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Francesco Trio
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  • 22.
    American Masters - Robert Helps: Symphony No 1, Etc
    Label: Composers Recordings, Inc. (Cri)   Catalog: 717 Release Date: 09/24/1996   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Robert Helps
    Performer:  Bethany Beardslee,  David Del Tredici,  William Masselos,  Robert Helps
    Conductor:  Zoltán Rozsnyai,  Gunther Schuller
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Columbia Symphony Orchestra,  American Composers Orchestra
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  • 23.
    But Yesterday Is Not Today - The American Art Song 1927-1972
    Label: New World Records   Catalog: 80243 Release Date: 09/17/1996   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Robert Helps,  Samuel Barber,  Theodore Chanler,  Roger Sessions  ... 
    Performer:  Robert Helps,  Bethany Beardslee,  Donald Hassard,  Donald Gramm
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  • 24.
    Gay American Composers
    Label: Composers Recordings, Inc. (Cri)   Catalog: 721 Release Date: 05/21/1996   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Robert Helps,  Lee Hoiby,  Lou Harrison,  Chester Biscardi  ... 
    Performer:  Robert Helps,  Peter Stewart,  Lee Hoiby,  Hank Dutt  ... 
    Conductor:  Bradley Lubman,  William Hibbard
    Orchestra/Ensemble:  Kronos Quartet
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  • 25.
    Incantations - 20th Century Works For Solo Flute / Stallman
    Label: Vai Audio   Catalog: 1112 Release Date: 12/12/1995   Number of Discs: 1
    Composer:  Paul Jeanjean,  Edgard Varèse,  John Heiss,  Stephen Dodgson  ... 
    Performer:  Robert Stallman
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