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. Benjamin Britten. Metamorphoses (6) after Ovid, for oboe solo, Op. Composition Information ↓; Description ↓; Parts/Movements ↓; Appears On ↓. A gap of fifteen years separates the somewhat experimental exuberance of Temporal Variations from the assured mastery of the Six Metamorphoses after Ovid.

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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. 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 is 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.

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

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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The Complete Works for Oboe. Masters of the Oboe. Oboe – Solo and Accompanied. Music for Oboe; Music for Piano.

When Wind Comes to Sparse Bamboo. Music By Benjamin Britten. Interlude in A Minor Op. British Music for Solo Oboe. Works for Oboe and Piano.