Copland's first major piano piece caused a stir from the time the composer gave the premiere performance at the artists' colony Yaddo, where he had started a festival of contemporary American music. He wrote that the Piano Variations "was the first work where I felt very sure of myself." Critic Paul Rosenfeld prophesied: "One felt its author the composer of the coming decades." The work has continued to draw attention and has been described as strong, spare, and granitic. While Copland adapted the twelve tone method for the piece, the twenty variations and coda flow naturally in a style that is recognizably Copland's own.
-Vivian Perlis, 1998