Beethoven – King Stephen Overture, Op. 117

by Max Derrickson

King Stephen Overture, Op. 117


A great new Theater was underway in Pest,Hungaryin 1811 under the sanction of Imperial Austria, and it was proclaimed that a great drama about a Hungarian historical figure would premiere with the hall to be preceded and ended with music.  The drama was commissioned of poet Auguste von Kotzebue, and the music was requested from Beethoven, who had in 1806 come toPestand performed several concerts.  By the time this work was commissioned of him in 1811, he had stopped performing and was considerably hard of hearing.  Despite this, the project evoked one of Beethoven’s sunniest responses – his former concerts in Pest must have recalled happier days, as well as that he had undertaken the writing after a medicinal vacation in Teplitz, Bohemia, a lovely country resort not far Hungary.  Apparently, his relationship with the Hungarians had been a happy one, for in a letter to a friend in 1811, Beethoven described his response to hisPestcommission: “After spending three weeks in Teplitz, I felt fairly well [months of illness preceded his retreat].  So, although my doctor had forbidden me to work, I sat down to do something for those moustachios who are genuinely fond of me.”  [. . .]