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Music with Ease > Classical Music > Concert Guide: Classical Era > Overture to King Stephen - Op. 117 (Beethoven)


Overture to "King Stephen". Op. 117

Ludwig Van Beethoven
(1770-1827)



In 1811 the managers of the New Theater at Pesth commissioned the poet Kotzebue to prepare a triology, based upon Hungarian historical subjects, suitable for the occasion of its opening, and engaged Beethoven to compose the vocal and instrumental music to accompany it. Both poet and composer accepted the task. The full title of Beethoven's score is "King Stephen, Hungary's first Benefactor, a Prologue in one act by Kotzebue, Music by Ludwig van Beethoven, written for the Opening of the New Theater in Pesth, February 9, 1812."

The overture commences with four calls in the trumpets, horns, bassoons, and strings, followed by a march theme announced by the flute, accompanied by the woodwinds, horns, and strings, pizzicato. The march is interrupted by four more calls, and then is resumed, leading to the main section of the overture. A theme of a martial character begins in the woodwinds and horns. After its development, a second theme is introduced, which is the first phrase of the vocal theme in the finale of the Ninth Symphony, showing how persistently Beethoven was haunted by the ideas which finally were worked out in the Choral Symphony. The march theme then returns, and two themes of the Presto are brilliantly developed. A stirring Coda brings the overture to its close.





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