Metamorphosen, Study for 23 Solo Strings, subtitled "In memoriam", is a composition by Richard Strauss
Richard Strauss
Richard Georg Strauss was a leading German composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras. He is known for his operas, which include Der Rosenkavalier and Salome; his Lieder, especially his Four Last Songs; and his tone poems and orchestral works, such as Death and Transfiguration, Till...

, scored for ten violins, five violas, five cellos, and three double basses. It was composed during the closing months of the Second World War
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, from August 1944 to March 1945. Strauss dedicated it to Paul Sacher
Paul Sacher
Paul Sacher was a Swiss conductor, patron and impresario.-Biography:He studied under Felix Weingartner, among others. In 1926 he founded the Basel Chamber Orchestra to play works written before the classical period and modern works...

. It was first performed in January 1946 (by Paul Sacher and the Zürich
Zurich is the largest city in Switzerland and the capital of the canton of Zurich. It is located in central Switzerland at the northwestern tip of Lake Zurich...

 Collegium Musicum).

It is widely believed that Strauss wrote the work as a statement of mourning for Germany's destruction during the war, in particular as a elegy for devastating bombing of Munich
Munich The city's motto is "" . Before 2006, it was "Weltstadt mit Herz" . Its native name, , is derived from the Old High German Munichen, meaning "by the monks' place". The city's name derives from the monks of the Benedictine order who founded the city; hence the monk depicted on the city's coat...

, especially places such as the Munich Opera House. This view, which began in the late 1940s, was supported and strengthened by a 1951 study, although Strauss, who died in 1949, never said what the piece was about. A differing view was published in the 1990s by Timothy L. Jackson who, after a careful analysis of sketch materials, concluded that Metamorphosen was a philosophical, Goethean study of the underlying cause of war in general; the cause being the bestial nature of humankind. Jackson's view is that in Metamorphosen Strauss used the classical concept of metamorphosis as a process of transcending from the mundane into the divine, but inverted it such that the outcome of metamorphosis is not an attainment of the divine but rather a descent into bestiality. Another 1945 piece, München, is clearly a memorial for Munich and scholars have associated the sketches of München with Metamorphosen since the 1950s. Jackson argues that scholars have assumed the early sketches of München were the basis for Metamorphosen based on weak, even untenable assumptions. This new view has gained some acceptance, although the view of Metamorphosen as a elegy for Munich is still widespread.

Near the very end of the piece, several bars of the funeral march
Funeral march
A funeral march is a march, usually in a minor key, in a slow "simple duple" metre, imitating the solemn pace of a funeral procession. Some such marches are often considered appropriate for use during funerals and other sombre occasions, the most well-known being that of Chopin...

 theme from Beethoven's
Ludwig van Beethoven
Ludwig van Beethoven was a German composer and pianist. A crucial figure in the transition between the Classical and Romantic eras in Western art music, he remains one of the most famous and influential composers of all time.Born in Bonn, then the capital of the Electorate of Cologne and part of...

 Eroica Symphony
Symphony No. 3 (Beethoven)
Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 3 in E flat major , also known as the Eroica , is a landmark musical work marking the full arrival of the composer's "middle-period," a series of unprecedented large scale works of emotional depth and structural rigor.The symphony is widely regarded as a mature...

 are quoted
Musical quotation
Musical quotation is the practice of directly quoting another work in a new composition. The quotation may be from the same composer's work , or from a different composer's work ....

 explicitly in the bass part, accompanied by the words "In Memoriam!" in the score. The Eroica theme is motivically related to the main themes of Metamorphosen, but Strauss wrote that the connection did not occur to him until he was almost finished. There are several theories about how and why Strauss quoted Beethoven, and who or what "in memoriam" refers to. In 1947 the critic Matthijs Vermeulen
Matthijs Vermeulen
Matthijs Vermeulen , was a Dutch composer and music journalist.- Early life :...

 claimed the whole piece was an elegy for the Nazi regime, and "in memoriam" referred to Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 himself. This theory was quickly and strongly denied by Willi Schuh, who had been involved with the work from the beginning. Schuh claimed that "in memoriam" referred not to Hitler but Beethoven, and most scholars since then have supported this idea. Another theory involves Beethoven's Eroica having originally been dedicated to Napoleon but after Beethoven's disillusion with Napoleon rededicated "to the memory of a great man", while Napoleon was still alive and in power; Strauss's quotation of the Eroica and writing "in memoriam" can be seen as having interesting parallels with Strauss's own involvement and rejection of Hitler and the Nazi regime. Beethoven had ironically "buried" and memorialized the still-living Napoleon. Strauss could have been pointing to a famous precedent for his own rejection of a tyrant he had once supported. Against all these specific theories is the fact that Strauss was fond of oblique references and multiple layers of meaning and connotation. Strauss may have considered the quotation and words "in memoriam" as having many meanings.

As one of Strauss's last works, Metamorphosen masterfully exhibits the complex counterpoint
In music, counterpoint is the relationship between two or more voices that are independent in contour and rhythm and are harmonically interdependent . It has been most commonly identified in classical music, developing strongly during the Renaissance and in much of the common practice period,...

for which the composer showed a predilection throughout his creative life.
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