Six Metamorphoses after Ovid
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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.
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 feel:
Marked Vivace ritmico, the second movement depicts Phaeton's ride on the chariot of his father, the sun god Helios. The inexorable, rhythmic eighth notes evoke images of this ride, first ascending as Phaeton soars too high, then descending as he plummets to Earth:
In contrast to the previous movement, the third movement takes a slower Andante tempo. Marked piangendo, or "weeping", the piece is stylistically intended to evoke images of Niobe's tears. Towards the end, this figure becomes increasingly manic before ultimately dying away:
The piece's lively fourth movement is divided into four sections, marked Allegro pesante, Più vivo, Tempo primo, and Con moto, respectively:
The fifth movement is marked Lento piacevole, or "slow and pleasant," and evokes images of the titular character's tranquil fixation:
Britten concludes his work with a pleasant and meandering piece that evokes images of the beautiful Arethusa and the flowing water of the fountain she became:
See also 
- "Benjamin Britten and his Metamorphosis" by George Caird, UCE Conservatoire, 2006 - Double Reed News, No 76