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Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber

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Title: Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber  
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Subject: Compositions by Paul Hindemith, Locrian mode, Variations, Carl Maria von Weber, Tuba
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Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber

Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber is an orchestral work written by German composer Paul Hindemith in America in 1943.


  • History 1
  • Ballet productions 2
  • Instrumentation 3
  • References 4
  • Further reading 5
  • External links 6


The idea of composing a work based on Carl Maria von Weber's music was first put to Hindemith in 1940 by the choreographer and dancer Léonide Massine, who suggested that he should arrange music by Weber for a ballet. When Hindemith made a piano arrangement in March 1940 of the two pieces that would become movements 1 and 3 of the Metamorphosis (which in a letter of April 12, 1940 he described as "lightly coloured and made a bit sharper"), Massine expressed a preference for more strict arrangements of Weber. This was one reason the project fell through (Luttmann 2009, 335–36). After studying Weber's music, Hindemith watched one of Massine's ballets and disliked it, and so wrote the Symphonic Metamorphosis instead. The Andantino and Marsch were completed on June 8 and June 13, 1943, respectively, and the manuscript of the complete orchestral score is dated August 29, 1943 (Luttmann 2009, 335).

Although by its thematic material it belongs squarely in the European tradition, it was composed with the virtuosity of American symphony orchestras in mind, and was titled originally in English (Schubert 2001). Other hands later translated it variously into German as Symphonische Metamorphose von [über/nach/zu] Themen Carl Maria von Webers; two German editions mistakenly give the title in the plural, Sinfonische Metamorphosen nach Themen von Carl Maria von Weber, and Sinfonische Metamorphosen Carl Maria von Weber’scher Themen, though none of these German titles were sanctioned by Hindemith (Luttmann 2009, 335). They nevertheless have sometimes been back-translated into English as Metamorphoses on Themes by .... The work is also sometimes known in English as Symphonic Variations on (or of) Themes by Carl Maria von Weber but, despite the title's reference to "themes", the work incorporates material more broadly from whole works by Weber (Anderson 1996, 1).

The Symphonic Metamorphosis is in four movements:

  1. Allegro
  2. Scherzo (Turandot): Moderato – Lively
  3. Andantino
  4. Marsch

The Weber themes are taken from incidental music which Weber wrote for a play by Carlo Gozzi, based on the same Turandot legend, that later inspired Giacomo Puccini and others. Hindemith and his wife would play Weber's music for piano four-hands, and Hindemith used some of these little-known pieces—Op. 60/4 (no. 253 in the Jähns catalog of Weber's works) (first movement), Op. 37 (J. 75) (second movement), Op. 10/2 (J. 82) (third movement), and Op. 60/7 (J. 265) (fourth movement) for the themes of the other movements. Weber's piano duets were written around 1802–03, 1809, and 1818–19, his Turandot music in 1809 (Tusa 2001).

The work was first performed on January 20, 1944, in New York City, with Artur Rodziński conducting the New York Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra.

Ballet productions

New York City Ballet, under the title Metamorphoses. This ballet version, with costumes by Barbara Karinska and lighting by Jean Rosenthal, was first announced for the week of 17 November, but was postponed and finally premiered on November 25, 1952. The principal dancers were Tanaquil LeClercq, Todd Bolender, and Nicholas Magallanes, and the orchestra was conducted by Léon Barzin. The company revived the production for the 1954 season (Anon. 1952a; Anon. 1952b; Luttmann 2009, 336; Martin 1952; Martin 1954).

A new choreography to Hindemith's music was devised by Jimmy Gamonet De Los Heros for a 1990 production at Wolf Trap, titled Movilissimanoble, but was pronounced "at best a qualified success as a symphonic abstraction in a neo-Balanchinian mode" (Kriegsman 1990). A year later, the Tokyo Festival Ballet brought to New York Minoru Suzuki's Henyo: Unknown Symphony, a ballet danced to a recording of Hindemith's music, but it was not well-received: "The choreography kept 16 dancers busy. Yet the work was more notable for its abundance of steps than for its clarity of structure" (Anderson 1991).


The Metamorphosis is scored for a typical Romantic-sized orchestra.


  • Anderson, Gene. 1996. "The Triumph of Timelessness over Time in Hindemith's 'Turandot Scherzo' from Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber". College Music Symposium 36:1–15.
  • Anderson, Jack. 1991. "Review/Dance; Japanese Choreography In Contemporary Works". New York Times (12 March): C14.
  • Anon. 1952a. "The Week’s Programs: Ballet Artists Returning—Concerts and Recitals". New York Times (16 November): X13.
  • Anon. 1952b. "This Week’s Events: Balanchine-Hindemith Ballet in Premiere". New York Times (23 November): X12.
  • Kriegsman, Alan M. 1990. "Dance; Miami Spice; At Wolf Trap, a Dash of Balanchine". Washington Post (10 August): C01.
  • Luttmann, Stephen. 2009. Paul Hindemith: A Research and Information Guide, second edition. Routledge Music Bibliographies. New York and London: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-99416-3 (cloth); ISBN 978-0-203-89126-1 (ebook).
  • Martin, John. 1952. "Ballet Presents Another Novelty: Metamorphoses Makes Use of Collaboration of Karinska, Balanchine and Hindemith". New York Times (26 November): 20.
  • M[artin], J[ohn]. 1954. "Leclercq Has Lead in 'Metamorphoses'". New York Times (27 January): 23.
  • Schubert, Giselher. 2001. "Hindemith, Paul". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.
  • Tusa, Michael C. 2001. "Weber: (9) Carl Maria (Friedrich Ernst) von Weber". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.

Further reading

  • Anderson, Gene. 1994. "Analysis: Musical Metamorphoses in Hindemith's March from Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber". Journal of Band Research 30, no. 1:1–10.
  • Bolin, Norbert. 1999. Paul Hindemith: Komponist zwischen Tradition und Avantgarde: 10 Studien. Kölner Schriften zur neuen Musik 7. Mainz: Schott. ISBN 3-7957-1896-1.
  • Brennecke, Wilfried. 1963. "Die Metamorphosen-Werke von Richard Strauss und Paul Hindemith". Schweizerische Musikzeitung 103, no. 4:199–208.
  • Charry, Michael. "The Metamorphosis of a Title". Journal of the Conductors' Guild 12, nos. 1–2 (Winter–Spring 1991): 71–73.
  • Fenton, John. 1978. "Hindemith's Symphonic Metamorphoses". Music Teacher (February): 19–21.
  • Field, Corey. 1990. "A Rose by Any Other Name ...". Journal of the Conductors' Guild 11, nos. 3–4 (Summer–Fall): 109–13.
  • Neumeyer, David. 1986. The Music of Paul Hindemith. Composers of the Twentieth Century. New Haven and London: Yale University Press.
  • Noss, Luther. 1989. Paul Hindemith in the United States. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0-252-01563-0.

External links

  • Discovering Music – Hindemith's Symphonic Variations of Themes by Carl Maria von Weber
  • Kuenning, Geoff. 1995. "Symphonic Metamorphosis of Themes by Carl Maria von WeberHindemith: ". Program notes for Concerts by the Symphony of the Canyons, 1994–1995 Season (Accessed 18 October 2011).
  • Program notes to a concert by the Salisbury Symphony Orchestra
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