Robert Schumann (1810–1856) Adagio and Allegro in A flat major op. 70
Urtext edited by Joachim Draheim [hn(vl/vc),pno]
“One of Schumann’s happiest creations.” (BBC Music Magazine)
28 pages | 23 x 30,5 cm | 128 g | ISMN: 979-0-004-18231-4 | Softcover
A work from Schumann's "most prolific" year, 1849, when the composer wrote a number of chamber works. Opus 70 has obviously become known above all in its extraordinary original scoring for horn and piano. Contemporaries praised the piece that showed "the inner workings of the soul" and the "truthfulness of the moods upon which it is based." Since Schumann himself had alternative solo parts made for the cello and violin in order to heighten the work's appeal, the new edition contains three separate parts. Following an exhaustive comparison with the engraver's copy, the music text was based on the reliable first edition.
Robert Schumann’s creativity took a momentous surge in Dresden in the spring of 1849. During the year that the composer himself called his “most fruitful,”1 Schumann undertook the composition of a number of chamber works in which he paired with the piano an instrument that had been previously neglected in the repertoire, forming duets which he no doubt sought to endow with an exemplary status. He wrote the (Fantasy Pieces) for clarinet op. 73 (EB 8794), the for horn op. 70, the (Five Pieces in a Popular Tone) for violoncello op. 102 (EB 8456) and the (Three Romances) for oboe op. 94 (EB 8632); as a kind of “postscript,” he produced the (Fairy Pictures) for viola op. 113 (EB 8587) in Düsseldorf in March 1851. Schumann wrote his op. 70 between 14 and 17 February 18492. While he originally called the two-part work “,” it was published under the title “” by Friedrich Kistner in Leipzig in July 1849. As stated in the first edition, the work was conceived for “pianoforte and horn;” however, an alternative performance combination is given there, namely for “violoncello or violin ad libitum.” It is undeniable that the horn, an instrument beloved by the Romantics, is best suited to beautifully express the melodic magic of the Adagio and the courtly spirit of the Allegro.3 But while the cello version sanctioned by the composer – and which was most probably offered as a means of increasing the work’s sales potential – has long been widely accepted, the violin version is rarely played.4 The (Concert Piece) for four horns and orchestra op. 86, which Schumann began writing just a few days after completing the, confirms to what point the composer was fascinated by the virtuoso resources of the valve horn, which was still establishing itself among the standard instruments. To this day, this work still ranks among the most difficult pieces for the horn and is sometimes even performed by five instead of four horn players because of its exceptional physical demands.
Even the very first reviewer of the recognized its outstanding significance for the repertoire. On 29 March 1850, Emanuel Klitzsch, a friend of the composer’s, wrote in the : “The union of the pianoforte and the horn has long been considered a felicitous one; and while an assortment of pieces have been written for this combination, their artistic value has always been extremely slight, for they generally aim at mere effect, whether it be of the virtuoso type or of that seeking a sensual, beautiful tone without ideal significance. The entire solo repertoire is still mired in such profound pointlessness that one has trouble showing performing artists (thus, those who should take the greatest interest in propounding their art, in the most stringent sense of the word) that achievements of superior artistic value can be obtained in this domain as well, if they desire to obtain proper recognition. The present concert piece diverges from the customary type, as was to be expected from our master. It exposes the inner workings of the soul, and as such, it is a piece whose necessity is immediately recognizable.The truthfulness of the moods upon which it is based is so forceful and convincing that the performer, in spite of certain arduous passages, will play it again and again, as experience has shown me, and will measure his powers against it. The Adagio, with which the work begins, is a delicate movement whose romantic atmosphere is all the more vividly outlined by the horn and its innate expressive means, the less the pianoforte – which does not behave passively but fulfills a concertizing function and, with the full richness of its harmonies, injects energy into the warm breath of the horn sound – is allowed to compete with its partner in songfulness … The piece dies away dreamily in sustained tones around which the pianoforte weaves a veil of gentle arabesques so as not to disturb his partner’s peace of mind. Then, suddenly, the Allegro surges upward brusquely, ripping him out of his mood of profound introspection in hasty, fiery steps. It seeks to incite him to bold deeds; a passionate battle begins, full of gravitas and virility, and rages until (in the middle section, F sharp major, recte: B major) it suddenly falls back into the first mood and an admonishing voice ushers in a short pause which, however, is soon followed by a new battle, which races towards its goal with renewed energy …”5
This new edition is based on the widely reliable first edition. The (Robert-Schumann-Haus Zwickau), which was revised by the composer and also contains a horn part along with the alternative parts for violin and violoncello, was also consulted for purposes of comparison. Minor inconsistencies in the dynamics (e.g. crescendo forks in the solo parts erroneously in m. 41 instead of m. 40 of the Allegro) and, above all, in the phrasing – also in the alternative parts – were tacitly corrected after comparison with parallel passages, with the and with the other solo parts. The differences between the horn and the two stringed parts in the phrasing and sometimes even in the substance of the part itself result from the different playing techniques of the wind and stringed instruments.
Karslruhe, Fall 2005
1 Letter to Ferdinand Hiller dated 10 April 1849 in: , ed. by F. Gustav Jansen, Leipzig 51904, p. 302.
2 According to the autograph (Heinrich-Heine-Institut Düsseldorf); in the composer’s personal copy (Robert-Schumann-Haus Zwickau) and in the (Robert Schumann: , Vol. III: Haushaltbücher, Part 2 (1847–1856), ed. by Gerd Nauhaus, Leipzig, 1982, p. 483) only the date of the beginning of the composition is entered, namely 14 February 1849.
3 The first rehearsal of the new work took place in the Schumann home on 2 March 1849 with Julius Schitterlau, a horn player of the Dresden Hofkapelle, and Clara Schumann at the piano (Schumann: , Vol. III, p. 485).
4 Due to an ironic twist of fate, the first public performance, held in Dresden on 26 January 1850, was of the violin version: the performers were Franz Schubert, the concertmaster of the Dresden Hofkapelle, and Clara Schumann. There were no doubt several reasons for this, one of them being that Clara Schumann had been regularly playing chamber music with Franz Schubert during these years, another that there was probably no horn player available at that time who was able to do justice to the high technical demands of the new work. In a later printing of the first edition, one finds the following note on the title page: “This work has also been supplied with a viola part.” Up to now, however, the existence of such a part has yet to be ascertained. The less than satisfying sound resulting from a performance with the viola should suffice to discourage this instrumental combination.
5 32/1850, No. 26 of 29 March, p. 133.