Helps internalized and personalized Whiteside’s approach to piano playing. It would be impossible to make sweeping generalizations about Helps’ teaching — except to point out that he insisted upon sweeping physical generalizations at the piano. Physical and aural rhythm were always favored at the largest levels. His tool of choice — the outline : a schema which allowed the pianist to internalize the crucial rhythmic structure of the piece, and to free oneself from the “contingency” of all those little fast notes. With Helps you would play the harmonic, rhythmic, and phrase structure long before lingering over a precious decrescendo or planning a chord-voicing.
Helps loved musical detail, but did not believe it could really be heard without the support of a ”long line.“ The constipated ruminations of certain chamber-music pianists drove him to despair — ”Every phrase ends with a pink bow!“ he would rail…
The pleasure of listening to Helps’ musical planning was that he seemed to draw upon an immense set of choices all selected in the heat of the moment.
Helps’ students the world over are invited to offer testimonies and anecdotes on this site.
The Webmaster trembles at the sacrilege of falsifying Helps’ unique and powerful approach to piano playing and teaching by rambling on in pianistic jargon. I defer to the words of the late Louise Vosgergian (eminent piano teacher at Harvard University). When I met her in Boston in the early 1990’s, after discovering with whom I studied, she exclaimed, ”Robert Helps is my hero!“