Composed in 1989, this set of piano variations is based on a series of scales – in use since pre-Christian times – known as “modes.” These scales formed the theoretical basis for the music of the ancient Greeks, and the music of the Medieval and Renaissance periods in Europe. For a span of nearly three hundred years, Euro-centric music narrowed its scope, preferring only the major scale (Ionian mode) and minor scale (related to the Aolian mode). While much folk music continued the use of the other modes, it wasn’t until the later Nineteenth Century that prominent composers rediscovered these intriguing scales. Many late Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century composers have used the modes for their distinct colors and emotional nuances.
The theme upon which this work is based is in the Ionian mode. Each of the variations is in a different mode. The variations are organized with each movement pitched in a mode a fourth higher then the previous movement. (This was done for overall balance and contrast between movements; also to avoid ending the set in the unstable Locrian mode.) These variations have been composed in a straightforward Twentieth Century style. The composer intends that this set may be a worthwhile teaching/learning vehicle as well as a musically rewarding concert work.
This work is subtitled “White Key Variations” since all of the modal scales used here are centered around the transpositions of the modes that use only white keys. The order of movements, according to the modal scale upon which each is based, is:
"Variations one through three are dancelike: the first is a sparkling fleet-footed jig, the second a spiky tango, while the third is a driving, but catchy flamenco-style dance. . . . [The fourth movement is] a slow, atmospheric rhapsody that transforms a four-note motive from an impressionistic opening to a dark chordal climax, then subsides into a quiet coda. The beautiful fifth variation [is] mirage-like, it's gone almost too quickly, before we can grasp it. Variation six concludes this delightful and inventive cycle with a joyfully bouncing presto, leaving the listener to marvel at the astonishing variety of mood and coloration that Pond achieves. . . ." Mark L. Lehman
Lawrence Johnson (Fanfare Magazine): "This is an inventive and well-crafted piece that deserves to be better known, given strong advocacy by pianist Slanicova."
This work was premiered by pianist, Kiana Hooker. The featured soloist on this recording is Elenorora Slanicova, and was recorded in Bratislava, Slovakia.