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Robert Schumann

1849 was Schumann's most productive year in terms of number of compositions, but it was also extremely rich in terms of the variety of works, which included choral pieces, songs, piano pieces, works for soloist(s) and orchestra, and several chamber pieces for solo instrument and piano. In a few of these works he made use of the relatively new valve horn, which had begun to show up in orchestras in the 1830s. One of Schumann's goals at the time was to create significant music that amateurs could use to further their skills on their instruments with what was called Hausmusik: meaningful, artistic music that they could play in private, at home. The Adagio & Allegro for horn and piano, Op. 70, is one of these works, but it actually takes an extremely skilled amateur to meet the technical demands of the piece. The Adagio is based on a melody that takes advantage of the valve horn's ability to play precise half-step notes. It has the demeanor of Schumann's wistful songs, requiring stamina to sustain the lyrical phrases. The rondo-form Allegro consists of a bright, vigorous main section, which utilizes the full range of horn in rapid fire figures, alternating with more poetic episodes that share melodic and rhythmic motives with the Adagio. Schumann also published versions of the piece with the violin or cello taking the solo part. The success of the horn version of Adagio & Allegro was a major factor in Schumann's decision to write the Konzertstück for four horns and orchestra, Op. 86, later that same year.