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Robert Helps was one of the great American composers of the 20th Century. His work was introduced to me by Russell Sherman, who insisted that I learned his last work for piano, Shall we dance. Helps' sudden passing in 2001 prompted the idea of recording a CD, basing its concept on the title of that very piece that I had just started learning. Some of the obvious choices that surround the work are Scriabin and Ravel, two of the composer's major inspirations.
Commissioned and premiered by Russell Sherman, 'Shall we dance' was completed in 1994. Only shortly after the recording session did I find out that Sherman had recorded the piece as part of his album Premieres and Commissions, which was released literally only days before my debut CD. Sherman takes priority in being the first to ever release a studio recording of the piece. I'm content with being the second...
I was fortunate enough to learn the piece from a photocopied manuscript including some annotations in the composer's hand. It was given to me by Russell Sherman, having received it directly from Robert Helps as a completed version of the work, before it was sent to Peters for publication.
Here is a description of the work in Robert Helps's own words:

"Despite the casual sound of the title, this is not a flippant piece ... 'Dance' intrudes all over the place, both consciously (i.e., the 'tune' of a Mischa Levitski waltz that my mother played a lot when I was a kid) and unconsciously (i.e., American 'popular' music, [Maurice] Ravel, etc.). The dance rhythm disintegrates and basically self-destructs towards the climax of the piece, only to regenerate slowly later and proceed to the end. Shall We Dance pays a special homage to the pedal, that fabulous pianistic resource that only pianists have, the lack of which makes even the wonderful orchestral transcriptions by Ravel of his own piano works fade when compared to the original."

Pianist Andrew Infanti, disciple and advocate of Robert Helps, is responsible for creating a phenomenal and monumental effort to celebrate the composer and his work.

RUSSELL SHERMAN, a marvellous artist and my beloved teacher
Russell Sherman: http://www.rilearts.com/rsherman.htm
Shall we dance... CD
Premieres and commissions: http://www.gmrecordings.com/gm2071.htm

RUSSELL SHERMAN: Pianist, Teacher, Renaissance Man,Boston's own deserves to be more famous than "famously unfamous." http://www.ffaire.com/sherman/index.htm

MATTIA OMETTO, the dearest of friends from my previous life and wonderful young pianist http://mattiaometto.altervista.org/

IRENE RUSSO, taking Europe by storm... a seducing pianist

Peters: http://www.edition-peters.com

Robert Helps "Opus" catalogue: http://helpsweb.free.fr/Pages/Opuscatalogue.htm


"The programming is refreshing and the playing is full of personality and assurance."

(Richard Dyer, The Boston Globe, Boston, Massachusetts USA - Review of Roberto Poli's debut CD Shall we dance... - December 2002)