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the forgotten violin concertos – part 7: Helmut May

April 16, 2016, 5:56 AM · On my website I provide free information and scores of compositions for violin concertante of the 20th century. The goal of this „Violin Gathering Point“ is to bring forgotten compositions back to the attention of musicians and to support the these lesser known works. One part of this project is preserve complete composer estates and preserve them from getting lost. This time I would like to introduce the compositions by German composer and violinist Helmut May.

Helmut May was born 1929 in Germany and after some troubled times through World War II he finally studied composition and violin. After his studies he accepted a job offer from the Schott music publisher in Mainz and worked for many years at the editorial office there. He accompanied and edited many releases of violin music by Mozart, Pergolesi and other composers from the Baroque and Classical music eras. Right after the completion of his studies he was also one of the founders of the Wiesbaden Chamber Orchestra and remained its concertmaster for the next 50 years! Another important part of his life was working with children and students. After quitting his job at Schott he worked for 20 years at a local school and taught music. He also composed and arranged music for beginners of mainly string instruments.

Beside these two jobs for a living Helmut May composed music nearly all of his life. Helmut May was a strong advocate for the twelve-tone technique and all of his music follows this compositional structure! As an introduction to a work from 1958 Helmut May formed the following words (which I translated into English):

„The 12-tone-technique is not the invention of a single person, but the insight of many musicians, which they attained from the development of their art. The principles to operate with the 12 notes are maybe just a transition, but in any case a beginning to tame the tremendous expansion of the musical expressions and put them in a comprehensible theoretical shape.“

I am in possession of the whole musical estate of Helmut May and in the process of making all his compositions available online free of charge. He composed mainly for the violin – not so surprising as a concertmaster – and you can find already five of his compositions at my website here.

I would like to point the attention to two of his works:

His main work for violin concertante is surely his „Maqam-Concerto for violin and orchestra“ which Helmut May composed in 1982. This is a full three movement violin concerto lasting around 25 minutes and composed in the heights of the musical output of the composer. It existed only in a working score and is available on my website for the first time ever!

The second composition is a playbook for violin students introducing the 12-tone-technique. It is called „Seven violin duets on 12 notes“ and the before mentioned quote comes from this composition. The violin duets show the formal principles of the 12-tone-technique in the simplest way and in familiar forms, that an understanding shouldn't be too difficult. Here is the beginning of the first duets:



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