King Stephen (König Stephan)
The complete title of Beethoven’s incidental music, written for a play by August von Kotzebue, was King Stephen, or Hungary’s First Benefactor. Over the course of a brief period during the autumn of 1811, Beethoven crafted an overture and nine movements incorporating the chorus. The musical numbers follow each other only loosely: first illustrating the great monarch’s personality, then the adoption of Christianity and the establishment of the Hungarian kingdom. The choral movement and solo numbers depict the victorious monarch, his marriage to Gizella, his lawmaking, as well as the scene when the Papal emissaries offer him the crown, along with the coronation itself. Today, it is chiefly the King Stephen Overture, built on verbunkos themes, that is familiar to audiences.