The Composer-Pianists — Hamelin and The Eight

By Robert Rimm

Cover of Robert Rimm’s book “The Composer-Pianists — Hamelin and The Eight”

The phenomenal recordings made by Marc-André Hamelin in recent years have cast new light on an extraordinary group of composers — Alkan, Busoni, Feinberg, Godowsky, Medtner, Rachmaninov, Scriabin, and Sorabji — whose works heralded a Golden Age of virtuosic writing for the piano.

The Eight, as author Robert Rimm has termed these composer-pianists, have much in common, traits shared in our own age with Marc-André Hamelin, their formost interpreter. For all their evident differences of age, nationality, and philosophy, they each created music of unprecedented ingenuity — often complex and of immense scale — that stretched the limits of the piano’s cabalities. And all were genuine virtuosos with the technical resources to play these demanding works in public.

This volume includes rare photographs and concludes with an extensive bibliography, listings of the complete solo piano works of The Eight and discographies of their solo piano recordings. In exploring the art of those who knew their instrument both as composers and as pianists, this book serves, in the words of pianist Stephen Hough, “both as a fascinating, exhaustive study of riches of the past and as stimulating inspiration for the future.”

As a child, Robert Rimm found a collection of Alkan’s sheet music and played several of his shorter pieces, a discovery that eventually led him to each of The Eight. Today, Rimm combines the disciplines of music and language as educator, writer, pianist, lecturer and translator. He has written for Piano & Keyboard, Fanfare, International Piano, and Dover Publications, and provides program annotations for the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society and others. Among his forthcoming projects is a translation of Samuel Feinberg’s Pianism as Art. He teaches at Chronos Studios in Philadelphia.

Published in 2002 by Amadeus Press (340 pages, hardback; ISBN 1 57467 072 7).


“Rimm deftly weaves together the lives and careers of the composers by discussing them in pairs, while also exploring their influences on each other.”

—Barry Zaslow

“Page after page, the book persuades you to hear in new ways … Rimm is often sylistically elegant, making The Composer-Pianists a pleasure to read.”

—Peter J. Rabinowitz, Fanfare, July/August 2002

“Rimm provides a wealth of interesting biographical information and researched material with lively discussions and comparisons of each pianist’s role as performer, writer, transcriber, composer, and international personality.”

—D. L. Patterson, Choice, 40, No. 03

“Very informative reading.”

Penn Sounds

“Robert Rimm’s entertaining volume should be especially interesting to everyone interested in the Romantic pianists and to Philadelphians in particular.”

The Delian