The interrelation of speech and music in Dittersdorf’s programmatic symphonies on Ovid’s Metamorphoses (1781-1783)
In early 1780s, Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf conceived a grandiose plan: the composition of 15 programmatic symphonies, based on myths from the equal in number books of Metamorphoses by the Latin poet Ovid. The present paper outlines the implementation progress of this ambitious and original undertaking through all available sources, which substantiate – in a manner unique to the standards of the classic era – the precise intentions of the composer, as well as the history of the dissemination and the reception of these innovative works. Furthermore, particular reference is made to the way with which Dittersdorf adapts the poetic text into the genre specifications of the classical symphony, on the one hand, and the typical music forms for the different symphonic movements into the needs of the particular programmatic contexts, on the other hand. The selected examples are not only from the first six symphonies of the cycle that are preserved in full orchestral form, but also from three more symphonies that have arrived until today only in piano arrangements made by the composer himself (three others have been lost in the meantime, while other three have certainly never been written).