- Premiere: 21 June 2005 / Bloomingdale School of Music, New York City, NY / Marc Peloquin, piano
- Instrumentation: solo piano
- Duration: 7.5'
The Piano Variations were commissioned by Ralph Berkowitz, longtime accompanist of Piatigorsky and former Dean of the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood. They were composed slowly, over a period of two years. Described by Hagen's publisher as "by turns driving, mysterious, vivacious and visionary, the eight variations in Piano Variations exploit the range and sonority of the piano with expertise and understanding."
Hagen's use of dissonance is higher than is customary for him in this introspective, technically challenging, and intellectually uncompromising piece. The first three variations were written in Austin, Texas, during the first production there of Hagen's opera Bandanna. Variations 4-6 were composed at Yaddo, and the last two variations were completed in New York City on 6 November 2002. The composer has inscribed them "to Ralph Berkowitz, on his 90th birthday."
The variations were premiered by Marc Peloquin in June 2005 at the Bloomingdale School of Music in New York City and subsequently toured by Rpbert Frankenberry as part of the solo recital "Copland and Company," which paired the variations with Copland's, along with other piano works by Blitzstein and Bernstein, among others.