Variations (1989)

Duration 25’
Originally for piano solo, later orchestrated for chamber orchestra
First performed as part of the 1989 Ballet Central Tour.
First orchestral performance by the Royal College Chamber Orchestra at the Britten Theatre.
Choreographed by Michael Pink

The Etudes slot in the Ballet Central programme was designed both to show off the dancers technical abilities and take classical ballet to parts of the country that did not have easy access to it. Following the lead from Danse Classique the previous year, Variations took a further step away from showing classroom steps in a class structure.

The music is a large ambitious set of variations for piano, written in a variety of classical and romantic styles. Just as the music develops the opening phrase into a full set of variations, choreographically Pink stays close to the music, exploring and developing his signature phrase in a similar motivic way. The variations grow in size as the piece goes on, culminating in a long romantic pas de deux. After a grand allegro the music develops into a triumphant fugue that brings the work to a exhilarating conclusion.

The orchestration of the score, when it was reworked for English National Ballet School, was overseen by Edwin Roxburgh. While some of it worked well orchestrated, its fundamental pianistic nature meant that the modest size of the orchestra found it hard to match the bigger romantic gestures, as in the fore-mentioned pas de deux. One of Roxburgh’s students also decided to re-compose part of the fugue, which was a little cheeky! In any case, it no longer fit the choreography.

Variations was written in the same autumn as Strange Meeting, so some of it was composed in Manchester, where Pink was working with Northern Ballet Theatre.

photo courtesy of Ballet Central