52,943 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

  Founder: Len Mullenger             Editor in Chief: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  

Some items
to consider

£11 post-free anywhere
Normal service resumed


100th birthday of Mieczyslaw Weinberg on December 8, 2019.
Renate Eggbrecht has recorded all 3 violin Sonatas


Recordings of the Month


Beethoven String Quartets

Produzioni Armoniche

Seven Symphonic Poems

Shostakovich VC1 Baiba Skride
Tchaikovsky Symph 5 Nelsons

Vivaldi Violin Concertos



Beethoven Piano Concertos

Stradal Transcriptions

LOSY Note d’oro

Scarlatti Sonatas Vol 2


Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels

Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Editor in Chief
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
Jonathan Woolf
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger


CD: MDT AmazonUK AmazonUS
Sound Samples & Downloads

Robert Helps in Berlin: Chamber Music with Piano
Track-listing at end of review
NAXOS AMERICAN CLASSICS 8.559696-97 [55:36 + 62:13]

Experience Classicsonline

Though never a household name, thanks in part to an endearing personal modesty that most 21st-century artists would find baffling, Robert Helps had a considerable reputation as both composer and pianist. In 1996 Milton Babbitt described him as "not only the pianist's pianist and the composer's composer, but [...] the composer's pianist and the pianist's composer".
However true that epithet may be, it is no guarantee that Helps' music will be attractive to the public. This enterprising release by Naxos brings together the two facets to dispel any questions. Helps had his friends and advocates in the American avant-garde - and still does. That notwithstanding, he chose a path which, for a long time after the War, was critically unfashionable, but more or less listener-friendly - that of a broadly tonal, narrative idiom. That Helps stayed true to his ideals, and that they were vindicated, can be seen in the two loosely similar Piano Trios. They were written more than forty years apart almost as his first and last words as a composer. They are helpfully placed side by side on CD 2.
Helps' chamber music is generally introspective, concise, unhurried, often frigid, a paragon of clarity and coherence that is indebted to his teachers Roger Sessions and - almost inevitably! - Nadia Boulanger. Despite Helps' eschewal of the arcana of modernism, these works make clear that he was not averse to atonality or impressionism, but it is always lightly worn, contextualised and measured. The music is often Schoenbergian in feel, but also reminiscent of other composers straddling modernism and neo-tonality - Sessions most obviously, but also another of Sessions' pupils, Peter Maxwell Davies, especially in his Naxos Quartets (see review of complete set).
In all there are about ninety minutes of Helps as composer, and thirty-five as pianist. Slightly curiously, Naxos's only previous issue of Helps's music (review) featured three of the works repeated here - the Postlude, Quintet and Shall We Dance? - albeit in different recordings. The opening two works, the Postlude and the Fantasy, are companion pieces to the Nocturne featured on that disc, in that together they constitute the three parts of a Serenade, the movements' stand-alone performance sanctioned by Helps.
At the piano Helps will appeal to a much fuller audience, as he plays some of his favourite pieces, exhibiting the marvellous technique, power and expressiveness he was renowned for in his time, not to mention his Godowskian skill as a transcriber in the Mendelssohn and Ireland. If there are more recordings available to Naxos, Helps as pianist surely merits its own separate release. His own work, Shall We Dance, is not the flippant MGM-derived piece the title suggests, but a serious, complex, yet still understated work, subtle and almost tuneful, based on a 'degenerative' idea akin to Ravel's La Valse. Fittingly, the disc ends with a piece by John Ireland, another deeply respected figure who has yet to achieve the wider recognition his genius deserves.
This is now Spectrum Concerts Berlin's seventh recording for Naxos under cellist/founder Frank Dodge, and they continue to impress. The German ATOS Trio, who some will recognise as BBC Radio 3 'New Generation Artists', make their debut, red-blooded and cohesive in the Trios. So does Japanese-American pianist Naomi Niskala, who has already made a name for herself as a performer of Helps, with her well-received two-volume set of his complete solo piano works on Albany (TROY 925, 958).
Sound quality is very good in the chamber recordings. By comparison, the piano sounds slightly recessed at the Berlin recital, but the audience exhibits laudable self-control. They are almost inaudible until they applaud. The English-German notes are surprisingly lengthy for Naxos, as well as informative and stylishly written.
Collected reviews and contact at reviews.gramma.co.uk


Robert HELPS (1928-2001)
Postlude for violin, horn and piano (1964) [8:43]
#Fantasy for violin and piano (1963) [6:57]
Quartet for violin, viola, cello and piano (1997) [14:30]
Duo for cello and piano (1977) [8:10]
Quintet for flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano (1997) [13:54]
#Piano Trio I (1957) [14:36]
#Piano Trio II (2000) [12:23]
+Shall We Dance?, for piano (1994) [11:20]
John IRELAND (1879-1962)
+Love is a Sickness Full of Woes, for piano (1921, arr. Helps) [2:59]
+The Darkened Valley, for piano (1919) [3:46]
Leopold GODOWSKY (1870-1938)
+Studies on Chopin's Etudes (1894-1914) - nos.12 and 45 [8:58]
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
+Schilflied, op.71 no.4 (arr. Helps) [3:53]
Francis POULENC (1899-1963)
+Intermezzo in A flat for piano (1943) [4:18]
Annette von Hehn (violin); Bernhard Krug (horn); Naomi Niskala (piano); Ronald Carbone (viola); Frank Dodge (cello); Marieke Schneemann (flute); Lars Wouters van den Oudenweijer (clarinet)
+Robert Helps (piano); #ATOS Trio (Thomas Hoppe (piano); Annette von Hehn (violin); Stefan Heinemeyer (cello))
rec. Siemens Villa, Berlin, 21-24 June 2010 (Helps); +Kammermusiksaal der Philharmonie, Berlin, 5-6 November 1997 (Helps - live recital). DDD












































Making a Donation to MusicWeb

Writing CD reviews for MWI

About MWI
Who we are, where we have come from and how we do it.

Site Map

How to find a review

How to find articles on MusicWeb
Listed in date order

Review Indexes
   By Label
      Select a label and all reviews are listed in Catalogue order
   By Masterwork
            Links from composer names (eg Sibelius) are to resource pages with links to the review indexes for the individual works as well as other resources.

Themed Review pages

Jazz reviews


      Composer surveys
      Unique to MusicWeb -
a comprehensive listing of all LP and CD recordings of given works
Prepared by Michael Herman

The Collector’s Guide to Gramophone Company Record Labels 1898 - 1925
Howard Friedman

Book Reviews

Complete Books
We have a number of out of print complete books on-line

With Composers, Conductors, Singers, Instumentalists and others
Includes those on the Seen and Heard site


Nostalgia CD reviews

Records Of The Year
Each reviewer is given the opportunity to select the best of the releases

Monthly Best Buys
Recordings of the Month and Bargains of the Month

Arthur Butterworth Writes

An occasional column

Phil Scowcroft's Garlands
British Light Music articles

Classical blogs
A listing of Classical Music Blogs external to MusicWeb International

Reviewers Logs
What they have been listening to for pleasure



Bulletin Board

Give your opinions or seek answers

Pat and present

Helpers invited!

How Did I Miss That?

Currently suspended but there are a lot there with sound clips

Composer Resources

British Composers

British Light Music Composers

Other composers

Film Music (Archive)
Film Music on the Web (Closed in December 2006)

Programme Notes
For concert organizers

External sites
British Music Society
The BBC Proms
Orchestra Sites
Recording Companies & Retailers
Online Music
Agents & Marketing
Other links
Web News sites etc

A pot-pourri of articles

MW Listening Room
MW Office

Advice to Windows Vista users  
Site History  
What they say about us
What we say about us!
Where to get help on the Internet
CD orders By Special Request
Graphics archive
Currency Converter
Web Ring
Translation Service

Rules for potential reviewers :-)
Do Not Go Here!
April Fools

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.