Legendary USF Pianist Remembered

Four School of Music faculty are headed to Carnegie Hall for a tribute concert to Robert Helps.


By Barbara Melendez

USF News


TAMPA, Fla. (Nov. 2, 2011) – A visit to his web monument makes it clear that Robert Helps was an extraordinary artist. He’s remembered at the site as an eminent composer, legendary pianist and beloved University of South Florida professor of 20 years.


But admiration for the late musician does not end there.


Four USF School of Music faculty are headed to New York City and the Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall to perform an all-Helps program of solo piano and piano/string chamber music – a fitting tribute for such a revered and respected individual.


November marks 10 years since Helps’ death.

Presented by Well Found Music, Nov. 3 at 8 p.m., “A Celebration of the Life and Music of Robert Helps” features Svetozar Ivanov, associate professor of piano; Scott Kluksdahl, professor of cello and chamber music; Carolyn Stuart, associate professor of violin; and Dharshini Tambiah, visiting professor of piano – all internationally recognized artists in the own rights.

They will focus on Helps’ piano trios, the unpublished “Fantasy” for violin and piano, the unpublished “Postcards,”  as well as his well-known and loved “Hommage a Faure,” “Saccade” and “Eventually the Carousel Begins” for piano four hands, and the unpublished “Duo” for cello and piano.

Proceeds from this concert will go towards the preservation and release of many previously unheard recordings of the pianist and composer’s legendary piano performances as well as the publication of his as yet unpublished works.


On what would have been his 83rd birthday, Oct. 23, USF presented a three-part celebration with a focus on Helps the teacher using videos of him teaching, from USF Library’s Special Collections, a “Happy Birthday Bob Helps” concert by Ivanov, Kluksdahl, Stuart and Tambiah and a third concert made up of his recorded performances also from USF Special Collections.


Kluksdahl, a friend and former colleague, notes the effect Helps had on “not just students, but his peers. Bob was a genius.  He was also a very quiet mentor and teacher, that his students now, near and far abroad, are picking up the cause of his music, I think Bob would be very happy to witness the profound and lasting impact of his legacy.”


And Tambiah, who never knew Helps herself, but has gotten to know him through his music, is impressed with how “you can connect with it. To me so much 20th century music is either very satisfying intellectually or it is very emotional.  But not much of it is really both.  But his music really is.  If you look at it closely, it really has depth and is so well-crafted. The voice is so unique.”


In the audience at Carnegie Hall will be College of The Arts Interim Dean Barton Lee and a number of USF administrators, alumni and friends. The next day they will reunite with the musicians to celebrate the USF School of Music’s designation as an All Steinway School with an exclusive private reception, mini concert and tour at historic Steinway Hall right across the street from Carnegie Hall. This is the flagship store of Steinway & Sons. For more information about this event contact Karen Frank at KFrank@usf.edu or (813) 974-5135.


Tickets for the concert are on sale at the Carnegie Hall Box Office, 154 West 57th Street, or via Carnegie Charge at 212-247-7800 or by visiting the Carnegie Hall website: carnegiehall.org.

For information on ways to support the All Steinway School initiative, visit http://www.arts.usf.edu/content/articlefiles/748-Steinway%20Brochure.pdf.

Barbara Melendez can be reached at 813-974-4563.