Nineteenth-century pianists routinely treated multimovement works—sonatas, suites, and character-piece sets—not as integral cycles but as sources of movements to excerpt, interpolate, and recombine. Exploring how five twenty-first-century pianists have adapted this practice illuminates the broader history of piano performance and the creative agency of performers invested in canonic works and ideals of Werktreue. Víkingur Ólafsson, Inon Barnatan, Alice Sara Ott, Khatia Buniatishvili, and Hélène Grimaud recombine multimovement works within the context of the concept album genre, a fixture of popular music largely unexplored within classical music. Within their opus-mixing concept albums, these pianists reinterpret the effect in performance and imagined cultural meaning of canonic repertoire. By determining an album’s track-to-track unfolding, they create original tonal, motivic, textural, and topical interrelationships and trajectories. The pianists, liner-note writers, and promoters also frame these albums with rich verbal discourses in which they assert this repertoire’s relevance and even contemporaneity for twenty-first-century listeners. Exploring these albums offers a glimpse of how performers of the classical canon navigate a twenty-first-century, digitally mediated media ecosystem. More broadly, it turns our attention to how this largely unexplored aspect of classical performance and recording shapes the way audiences encounter musical works and performers create public personae.

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