Robert Helps only lived one year into the twenty-first century. But he would have been delighted to experience the recent positive transformation of musical attitudes towards the supposedly “minor” composers he loved and deliberately resembled.
The “Music formerly known as Classical” often regarded a small number of heroic individual composers prejudicially, relegating all category-independent difference to the margins. Naturally, the music produced by composer-performers like Busoni, Godowsky, Grainger, and Enescu (with Helps naturally extending this pedigreed lineage) was informed by different sensibilities than their composer-only contemporaries. And, in spite of being victims of some vigorous rhetorical poisoning by narrow-minded musical critics who insisted on “specialists” in the field, these complete musicians were able to put their best into their active careers as performer (and often teacher or conductor as well) while producing “major” work as composer. From the tireless efforts of these important and fascinating twentieth-century figures, we have learned to respect and reconsider this lineage. During his lifetime, Helps was a “cult” composer, treasured by an elite few.
Soon, the musical establishment which deprived him of the recognition he deserved will have disappeared as such, and a new set of ears will respond, delighted, to his original and engaging work.