Six Metamorphoses after Ovid, op. 49, by Benjamin Britten, Britten composed this work for solo oboe for the oboist Joy Boughton who premiered the piece. Metamorphoses after Britten are just that: four miniatures, each inspired by one of Benjamin Britten’s Six Metamorphoses after Ovid for solo oboe. Benjamin Britten. Metamorphoses (6) after Ovid, for oboe solo, Op. Composition Information ↓; Description ↓; Parts/Movements ↓; Appears On ↓.

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Benjamin Britten ‘s Six Metamorphoses for oboe solo, Op. The next real concert piece after the Metamorphoses would be the Sonata for cello and piano of Britten ‘s only work for solo oboe takes Ovid’s famous literary work by the same name as its starting point.

Metamorphoses (6) after Ovid, for oboe solo, Op. 49

The work focuses six episodes into musical sequences that give full expression to both Britten ‘s melodic ingenuity and the oboe’s expressive range, which metamorposes expanded to include far more than just traditional technical idioms and coloristic possibilities.


Certainly one might well wonder, upon first encountering the Metamorphoses, why Britten chose an instrument as seemingly limited as the oboe. However rich in tone, it is basically without extensive change in color throughout its two-and-a-half octave range and is generally monophonic.

Yet, upon further acquaintance with the music, it becomes clear that it is these very restrictions that attracted Britten to the instrument and which allow his melodic and harmonic metamorphoses to take center stage, unfolding with great clarity.

By restricting himself so thoroughly, the musical processes can remain pure throughout the six movements.

Obviously, the many fermatas and rests that pop up throughout this and the other five movements are not only for the purposes of isolating different musical fragments, but also designed to keep the performer from passing out. Abstract, non-linear use of pseudo-traditional harmonies such as triads, dominant seventh chords with irregular resolutions, etc. After a musical portrayal of Bacchus, Britten moves on to the appropriately reflective tale of Narcissus and finally to the waterlogged cellular variations of Ovid’s Arethusa.


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AllMusic Featured Composition Noteworthy. Genre Chamber Music Classical. Share on facebook twitter tumblr. Master of the Oboe: Six Metamorphoses after Ovid. Complete Works with Oboe.

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Last modified: August 14, 2020