Robert Helps: Biographical Sketch

Robert Helps (1928 – 2001) was Professor of Music at The San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Tampa, and the University of South Florida. He received many awards, including awards from the Guggenheim, the National Endowment for the Arts, Ford, etc. In 1976, he won an award from the Academy of Arts and Letters. His Symphony #1 contained an award-winning “Adagio for Orchestra”, which drew the attention of a Fromm Foundation. It was performed by Leopold Stokowski in New York City, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. He also premiered Piano Concerto #1 by himself, along with the Manhattan Conservatory orchestra; this concert was commissioned by the Thorne Music Fund. After that, he also wrote his Piano Concerto #2, premiered with the Oakland (CA) Symphony, and commissioned by Richard Goode from the Ford Foundation.

Robert Helps started his career as a professor of piano at the New England Conservatory of Music, Stanford University, the San Francisco Conservatory, the Manhattan School of Music, Princeton University, and the University of California at Berkeley. In 1973, he became an artist-in-residence at the University of California-Davis.
Robert Helps was signed to such labels as Columbia, Deutsche Grammaphon, Victor, Desto, Composers Recordings Inc., New World, GM Recordings, and Son Nova. Gossamer Noons, Symphony #1, and many other compositions were recorded. He also recorded as pianist and composer.

He wrote many works which were published by E.B. Marks, C.F. Peters, and the American Composer Edition. Music critics noted his awesome rhythmic patterns, romantic compositions, and the atmosphere of relaxation. Richard Dyer noted Helps’ incredible technique. Los Angeles Times called his compositions “stunning”, considering Robert Helps one of the best pianists of the 19th and 20th centuries. He was inspired by compositions of Roger Sessions, and pianism of Abby Whiteside.

Robert Helps also toured with many famous musicians, such as Isidore Cohen, Phyllis Curtin, Bethany Beardslee, Rudolf Kolisch, and Aaron Copland. His solo performances were appreciated by music organizations in Los Angeles, Minneapolis, New York City, Boston, Chicago, and San Francisco. His memorial solo recitals dedicated to the music of Roger Sessions took place at Princeton and Harvard Universities, as well as in Town Hall, and during Chamber Music Wes, the festival in San Francisco. In Boston, Colorado Springs, and New York City, he performed along with Bethany Beardslee.

In 1990, A Mixture of Time was premiered by Adam Holzman in San Francisco. In 1992 and 1994, Helps wrote The Altered Landscape and Shall We Dance. These solos were commissioned by Russel Sherman. In 1993, He wrote Quartet for Piano, Violin, Viola, and Cello. He also wrote his Symphony No. 2 in 2000, followed by Piano Trio No. 2.

During 1995 and 1996, he played a couple concerts in New York City. He performed along with Jorga Fleezanis. It was Roger Session’s 100th birthday year. He wrote “Pro Musica” for chamber music society of Detroit. In 1997, he was a guest of Spectrum Concerts Berlin in Germany. In 2000, he returned to Germany, performing solo his Quartet for Piano, Violin, Viola, and Cello.

Trio #2 for Piano, Violin, and Cello was written on commission for the University of South Florida, and performed by Lions Gate Trio in France, Finland, Tampa, and New York City. Recently Dunsmuir Quartet performed Quartet for Piano, Violin, Viola, and Cello in the National Gallery in Washington D.C.

Symphony No. 2 was written on commission for the Institute for American Music. In 2000, it was premiered in St. Petersburg, Tampa, and Clearwater, Florida.
The University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota, honored Robert Helps “Doctor of Humane Letters”.

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