The Original Sound
1814 - 1894



(From: A Treatise upon Modern Instrumentation and orchestration)


�His (Adolphe Sax's ) principal merit, however, is the creation of a new family, complete since a few years only. These are Saxophones. These new voices given to the orchestra, possess most rare and precious qualities. Soft and penetrating in the higher part, full and rich in the lower part, their medium has something profoundly expressive. It is in short, a quality of the tone siu generis, presenting vague analogies with the sound of the violoncello, of the clarinet and corno inglese, and invested with a brazen tinge which imparts a quite peculiar accent. Agile, fitted for the execution of passages of a certain rapidity, almost as much as for cantilena passages, saxophones may figure with great advantage in all kinds of music. Clever composers will hereafter derive wondrous effects from saxophones..













adolphe sax

swedish poet





"Sax, Adolphe [Antoine Joseph] (b. Dinant, Belgium, 6 Nov. 1814; d. Paris, 4 Feb. 1894). Instrument maker. Eldest son of the 11 children of the Belgian instrument maker Charles Joseph Sax (1791-1865), in whose shop he early learned the crafts of the trade and whose inventiveness he inherited; also became an accomplished flutist (studying at the Brussels Conservatory) and clarinetist. To 1842 he worked in his father's shop, also making improvements of the clarinet and bass clarinet; 1842, set up shop in Paris, supported by leading French musicians, including Berlioz (who wrote in his favor), Halévy, and Kastner, developing and patenting families of new instruments: the saxhorns (1845), saxotrombas (1845), which survived only briefly, and saxophones (1846). Seeing an opportunity in the then-poor state of French military bands, he proposed to the government a complete reorganization, incorporating his new instruments and eliminating French horns and bassoons. A celebrated open-air test on 22 April 1845 before 22,000 people was decided in his favor, and he was granted a virtual monopoly, naturally resulting in opposition from French makers, who organized to destroy him through, so Sax's supporters claimed, industrial sabotage and by attacking the legitimacy of his patents. Litigation continued for many years, undermining the financial soundness of his firm, which went bankrupt in 1856 and 1873, and perhaps his own health (in 1853-58 he had lip cancer, from which his recovery was deemed miraculous). His business was continued by his sons. Taught the saxophone at the Paris Conservatory, 1857-71; published a Méthode complète pour saxhorn et saxtromba." More . . .

From The Harvard Biographical Dictionary of Music


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