English composer Benjamin Britten
composed the program music Six Metamorphoses after Ovid
(Op. 49) for solo Oboe
in 1951. Intended to evoke images of the Roman poet Ovid's Metamorphoses
, the piece is dedicated to oboist Joy Boughton
who gave the first performance at the Aldeburgh Festival on 14 June 1951. Joy Boughton was the daughter of Britten's friend and contemporary, the composer Rutland Boughton
As its title suggests, it is in six movements, each of which bears a superscription:
- Pan, who played upon the reed pipe which was Syrinx, his beloved.
- Phaeton, who rode upon the chariot of the sun for one day and was hurled into the river Padus by a thunderbolt.
- Niobe, who, lamenting the death of her fourteen children, was turned into a mountain.
- Bacchus, at whose feasts is heard the noise of gaggling women's tattling tongues and shouting out of boys.
- Narcissus, who fell in love with his own image and became a flower.
- Arethusa, who, flying from the love of Alpheus the river god, was turned into a fountain.
Most of the six movements are marked by frequent pauses between phrases, denoted either by breath mark
. A typical performance lasts between 10 and 15 minutes.
Description of Movements
In depicting its free-spirited, eponymous mythological figure, the first movement is marked Senza misura
, or "without measure." This, combined with its frequent phrase-ending fermatas, gives the piece an ad libitum