ROBERT HELPS (1928-2001): Complete Works for Piano, Vol. 2 - Fantasy, 3 Etudes, Recollections, Solo, Image, Portrait, Starscape, Quartet.
Catalogue Number: 10J098
Reference: TROY 958
Description: Volume 2 completes the survey of Helps' solo piano output with his early works from 1952 to 1971. Helps was a remarkable pianist, and this is reflected in his completely natural approach to the instrument as pianist-composer. Following no particular school of composition, his piano music spans a wide range of styles and techniques, always with an unfailing sense of piano color and the expressive possibilities of the instrument; tonality - of one sort or another - is always present or implied in a very natural way; Helps was uncomfortable with 'systems' by his own admission, and an innate sense of harmonic structure always seems to underpin every technique or compositional device he essayed. The scorching virtuosity of the Etudes ('criminally difficult', he called them) establishes his credentials as a composer who could push the boundaries of the instrument, but there is also the warmly romantic, pre-minimalist sensuality of the Recollections, or the multi-faceted argument of the tautly constructed Quartet - a big, tough sonata in all but name - to suggest that musical and expressive content were always the factors of paramount importance in Helps' compositional method. Even the very earliest piece - his first for solo piano - the Fantasy, is a fully developed, mature-sounding work, building and releasing tension with extraordinary assurance. Both volumes are highly recommended for a full portrait of a truly original composer-pianist of the 20th century. Naomi Niskala (piano).