Introduction to Helps’ music

The music of Robert Helps does not end with this intellectual tutelage he received from his professors, as is the case with so many “academic” composers. Helps was a performer who adored effortless (and even glib!) virtuosity. It would be out of the question for him to write music which exuded a strenuous esthetic. A thematic zone across his musical production celebrates this supreme effortlessness, offering a floating quality full of mysterious charm.

Like Busoni and Godowsky, both famous pianists, Helps embraces the idea of historical “transcription” in his compositional language. Never afraid to incorporate the ideas, harmonies, and textures, (or even fingerings!) of others into his own music, this “transcribing” mentality could be mistaken for a certain irreverence for the past. Helps’ transcriptions (and self-transcription) forefront his sensibility as performer: he believed responsible musicians need to “digest” the music of others, making it their own.  In his opinion, a flat literal approach to the treasures (and trash) of the past created an intolerable artistic distortion.