Sax History




The following was received via an e-mail forwarded to me by my good friend O.J. Cummins, Director of the Big Band Sound.  I have copied/pasted it as received.


Saxophone History

(Or . . . more about sax than you ever wanted to know.)


Antoine Sax was born on November 6, 1814.

 He came from a long line of instrument makers.  His father Charles Sax was 'instrument maker to the court of the Netherlands' and was noted for his development of  the rotary valve system as used on brass instruments of the present day.  Young Antoine (better known as Adolphe to his friends) learnt the skill of instrument making at an early age.


Adolphe studied clarinet and flute at college and was a very fine player.   The desire to invent however drew Adolphe back to the family tradition of instrument making.   He had already come up with his family of saxhorns (from which are born todays brass band instruments) and redesigned the bass clarinet to a greatly improved standard, but he also wanted to produce an instrument that played in octaves rather than twelfths. 


His new instrument 'The Saxophone' was patented in 1840.


Moving to Paris to further his career sax performed at the Paris Conservatoire, where he met and befriended many of Paris' distinguished musicians. He gathered enough money to form the 'Adolphe Sax Musical Instrument Factory.   The instruments were very successful especially with the military bands of the time and as a result he was forever at war with the established local instrument makers;   They issued thefts, threats, legal battles and possibly even an attempt on his life. One tactic employed against the saxophone was to oppose it's acceptance into the orchestra, an example of this was when an Opera orchestra threatened to walk out when a Sax Bass Clarinet was to be introduced into the orchestra. The 'United Association of Instrument Makers' was also established in Paris by these locals, one of their first lawsuits was to oppose Sax's patent on the Saxophone.


As a response, Sax challenged them to produce the instrument known as the saxophone themselves. They failed.


The French Revolution was also a problem for Sax; he had previously been very much involved with the King, and most of the famous players were part of his court.     After the revolution the French military bands with Sax's instruments were revoked by the new government.


In 1848 an anonymous benefactor gave Sax money to pay his workers, without which he would have become bankrupt.    In 1852 this benefactor died, leaving a large sum of money unaccounted for.     Sax was soon demanded to repay the money and as a result he fled to London and pleaded his innocence by post.  Eventually he returned to Paris and financial ruin.


Adolphe returned to the music scene in 1859, (followed by more legal battles), and the saxophone began to creep back into the market.


In 1867 the Paris Conservatoire began classes to learn this new instrument, under the direction of Mr Sax, but not long afterwards many Sax's colleagues died.  This coincided with the expiration of his original patents expired and by 1873  Sax faced bankruptcy a second time.


Adolphe Sax died in 1894. 


His son Adolphe Edouard Sax continued the Sax factory until in 1928 when it was sold to the Henri Selmer Company.



Saxophone Timeline, 1814-1995

Antoine Sax, born 6 November 1814


1814 - Antoine-Joseph (Adolphe) Sax born 6 November, Dinant, Belgium, studies instrument-making with his father, Charles-Joseph (1791-1865)

1834 - Adolphe Sax perfects bass-clarinet design; *improves keywork and construction

1842 - Sax arrives in Paris

1842 - 12 June--Sax's close friend Hector Berlioz writes article in Paris magazine Journal des Debats describing Sax's newest invention--the saxophone

1844 - 3 February--Berlioz conducts concert which features an arrangement of his choral work Chant Sacre which includes saxophone

1844 - December--Saxophone makes its orchestral debut in Georges Kastner's opera Last King of Juda; Paris Conservatory

1845 - Sax re-tools military band by replacing oboe, bassoons, and french horns with saxhorns in Bb and Eb, producing a more homogenous sound, his idea is a success

1845 - Georges Kastner--Variations Faciles et Brillante for solo saxophone; Sextour for 2 soprano, alto, bass and contrabass saxophones

1846 - Sax granted patent for saxophone

1847 - 14 February--Saxophone school set up at "Gymnase Musical"--a military band school in Paris

1858 - Sax becomes Professor of Saxophone at Paris Conservatory

1858 - Jean-Baptiste Singelee (b. Brussels 1812-d. Ostend 1875)--writes first two Paris Conservatory contest solos; Concerto (sop./ten.), Fantaisie (bari.)

1861 - Wagner, in lieu of 12 French Horns, uses saxophones and saxhorns in the orchestra pit at the premiere of his opera Tannhauser

1862 - Jules Demerssemann (b. Belgium 1833, d. Paris 1866)--Fantaisie sur un Theme Originale (ded. to Henri Wuille, alto)

1866 - Sax patent expires--Millereau Co. patents Saxophone-Millereau, which features a forked F# key

1867 - Nazaire Beeckman becomes Professor of Saxophone at Brussels Conservatory

1868 - Gautrot, Pierre Louis & Co.--devises screw-in pad system and mechanism inside pad cup to keep outside of pad flat

1871 - Gustav Poncelet becomes Professor of Saxophone at Brussels Conservatory after Beeckman

1875 - Goumas--patented saxophone with fingering system similar to Boehm system clarinet

1877 - Hyacinthe Klose--Methode Complete de Saxophone ; Klose--Methode Elementaire (alto/tenor)

1879 - Klose--Methode Elementaire (baritone) Georges Bizet--L'Arlesienne Suites No. 1&2

1881 - Klose--Methode Elementaire (sop.)

1881 - Jules Massenet--Herodiade

1881 - Sax extends his original patent--lengthens bell to include low Bb and A; also extends upward range to F# and G with use of fourth octave key

1885 - First saxophone built in U.S. from Sax patent by Gus Buescher

1886 - Association Des Ouvriers--devise right hand C trill key, and a half-tone system for first fingers of left and right hands

1887 - Association Des Ouvriers--invent tuning ring, and precursor of articulated G# Evette and Schaeffer--improve on articulated G# so that G# key can be held down while any finger of the right hand is being used, improved forked F#, invented "bis" key, added low Bb

1888 - Lecomte--invents single octave key, rollers for low Eb-C

1892 - Jules Massenet--Werther

1894 - Sax dies

1896 - Eugene Coffin plays on earliest Columbia saxophone recordings

1897 - Creation of Storyville

1901 - 29 January, Charles Loeffler's Divertisment espanol is premiered by Elise Hall in Boston's Copley Hall (first work commissioned by E. Hall)

1901 - Elise Hall commissions Claude Debussy to write saxophone work

1903 - Symphonia Domestica by Richard Strauss.  Score includes saxophones keyed in F & C: sopr., alto (mezzo), bari., bass.  *Part now exists as obbligato section for instruments keyed in Bb and Eb.

1903 - Elise Hall commissions Choral Varie by Vincent d'Indy

1904 - 4 January, premiere of Choral Varie by E. Hall in Copley Hall, Boston

1904 - 21 March, World Premiere of Richard Strauss' Symphonia Domestica in Carnegie Hall, New York City

1906 - 2 January, Elise Hall premieres Legend for saxophone and orchestra by Georges Sprok

1908 - Paul de Ville's Universal Method for saxophone first published by Carl Fischer

1911 - Henri Woollett's Siberia - Poeme Symphonique is premiered by Elise Hall

1911 - Tom Brown and the Brown Brothers saxophone sextet popularize saxophone with American public with recordings of such songs as: Bullfrog Blues, Chicken Walk,

1914 - Rudy Wiedoeft makes his first saxophone record

1916 - Charles Ives writes saxophone part in Symphony No. 4 (premiere of work is much later)

1917 - *Bela Bartok's The Wooden Prince is premiered; score includes alto and tenor saxes

1917 - Benjamin Vereecken's Foundation of Saxophone Playing published by Carl Fischer

1918 - Percy Grainger uses saxophone for the first time in Children's March (sopr. alto, tenor, bari., and bass)

1919 - *11 March, premiere of Debussy's Rapsodie Yves Mayeur, soloist

1922 - Saxophone used in Mussorgsky/Ravel Pictures at an Exhibition

1923 - Rhapsody in Blue by George Gershwin (2 altos, tenor)

1923 - Darius Milhaud writes for saxophone in Le creation du monde

1924 - Elise Hall dies

1926 - Puccini's Turandot includes saxophone part in score

1926 - 31 January, first performance of serious saxophone literature in New York City's Aeolian Hall by Jascha Gurewich (1896-1938)

1927 - Ravel uses saxophone in his Bolero (sopranissimo, soprano, tenor)

1927 - Job by Ralph Vaughan Williams (alto)

1928 - An American in Paris by George Gershwin (alto, tenor, bari)

1928 - Symphony No. 1 Aaron Copland (alto)

1928 - Marcel Mule establishes quartet along with members of the Garde Republicaine de Paris

1929 - Sigfrid Karg-Elert (1877-1933) composes 25 Caprices for Saxophone

1932 - Harvey Pittel is born on June 22

1932 - Eugene Rousseau is born in Blue Island, Illinois on August 23

1932 - Jean-Marie Londeix is born in Libourne, France on September 20

1933 - *Marcel Mule premieres Legend by Florent Schmitt (written for Elise Hall)

1935 - Frederick Hemke is born on July 11

1935 - Marcel Mule premieres Pierre Vellones' Concerto in November 16

1935 - Sigurd Rascher premieres (in entirety) Concertino da Camera by Jacques Ibert on December 11

1936 - Eugene Bozza composes Aria for alto saxophone

1937 - Cecil Leeson gives first performance of the Glazunov Concerto on February 5

1937 - Larry Teal premieres the Bernhard Heiden Sonata on April 8

1937 - Donald Sinta is born in Detroit, MI on June 16

1937 - James M. Stoltie born in Galesburg, Ill. on July 10

1938 - Jascha Gurewich dies (known as composer of various saxophone works)

1939 - Jamey Aebersold is born on July 21 (known as a jazz pedagogue and influential to jazz saxophone practice techniques, as well as other instruments)

1939 - Arnold Brillhart begins design and production of mouthpieces (also known as jazz saxophonist)

1939 - Paul Creston (*Joseph Guttovegio) composes Sonata for Cecil Leesson

1939 - Paul Hindemith composes Sonata (adapted by composer for alto sax & piano)

1940 - Saxophonist Rudy Wiedoeft dies in Queens, NY on February 18

1941 - Top Tones, by Sigurd Rascher is released as a study to saxophone altissimo register

1942 - Stan Getz (1927-1991) begins playing as a professional saxophonist

1942 - Classical Tenor saxophonist pioneer James Houlik is born in Bay Shore, NY on December 4

1942 - Pierre Lantier composes Andante et Scherzetto for saxophone quartet

1942 - Marcel Mule is appointed Professor of Saxophone at the Paris Conservatory

1943 - 18 Berbiguier Exercises is published by Mule

1944 - Eugene Bozza publishes Improvisation et Caprice for solo saxophone (used of different instruments previously)

1946 - 48 Ferling Etudes is reissued through Marcel Mule

1948 - Japanese saxophonist and composer Ryo Noda is born in Amagasaki, Japan on October 17

1948 - Heitor Villa-Lobos composes Fantasia Op. 630 for Marcel Mule

1949 - Jazz saxophonists Gerry Mulligan and Lee Konitz are released along with other artists on Miles Davis' album Birth of the Cool

1950 - Lynn Klock, Prof at Univ. of Mass. Amherst, is born on August 12

1951 - Rueff Concerto is premiered in the Solos de Concours in Paris

1953 - Daniel Deffayet debuts as saxophone soloist (succeeds Mule at the Paris Conservatory in 1968)

1953 - Larry Teal is appointed Professor of Saxophone at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor *becoming the first American public university, tenure-track appointment; founds doctoral program

1954 - The Selmer Mark VI Saxophone begins to be produced

1955 - Charlie "Bird" Parker dies in New York City on March 12

1956 - Alfred Desenclos composes Prelude, Cadence et Finale for the Paris Solos de Concours

1956 - *Dubois Quatour

1956 - Frederick Hemke is first American saxophonist to win Premiere Prix de Saxophone at the Paris Conservatory

1956 - Laura Hunter is born June 13 (student of Donald Sinta and J.M. Londeix)

1957 - Saxophone Colossus released by jazz tenor man Sonny Rollins

1958 - John Coltrane is jazz tenor saxophonist and quartet leader on the album, Giant Steps

1958 - Erland von Koch composes Concerto for alto saxophone and orchestra for Sigurd Rascher

1959 - "Take Five" a Paul Desmond composition is released on the album featuring the Dave Brubeck Quartet, Time Out

1959 - Paule Maurice composes Tableaux de Provence

1959 - Jazz tenor legend Lester Young dies in New York on March 15

1960 - Joseph Lulloff, prof of sax at Michigan State University, is born

1961 - Percy Grainger dies, February 2

1961 - Walter Hartley's Petite Suite written for Hemke

1962 - Eugene Rousseau studies with Marcel Mule

1963 - The Art of Saxophone Playing is published by Larry Teal

1963 - Fred Hemke is appointed to Northwestern Univ. staff

1964 - John Coltrane's A Love Supreme issued

1967 - Coltrane dies, July 17

1967 - DiPasquale Sonata is published for Tenor Sax (Southern Music)

1967 - Hartley writes and publishes Poem and Sonatina for James Houlik

1968 - Mule retires from Paris Conservatory, Deffayet takes over

1968 - Leslie Bassett's Music for Alto Saxophone and Piano is published (Peters)

1968 - Saxophonist James Stoltie hired at SUNY Potsdam's Crane School of Music

1969 - Rascher Quartet is formed - Sigurd and Carina Rascher, Bruce Weinberger and Linda Bangs

1969 - M.W. Karlins Music for Tenor Saxophone is written for Hemke

1969 - Heiden Solo written for Rousseau

1969 - May 19, Coleman Hawkins dies

1969 - December - 1st World Saxophone Congress Meeting, Chicago; organized by Brodie/Rousseau; *Donald Sinta elected Chairman

1970 - December - Trent Kynaston (prof of sax at Western Mich. Univ.) premieres Muczynki's Sonata Op. 29

1970 - 2nd World Saxophone Congress Meeting, Chicago

*1970 - Edison Denisov writes Sonata for J.M. Londeix

1971 - Rosemary Lang altissimo studies published

1971 - Noda Improvisation I written for Londeix

1971 - Saxophone Concertos (Eugene Rousseau) record issued on Deutches Grammophon; reissued in CD 1998

1971 - 3rd WSC Meeting in Toronto

1972 - Daily Studies Teal

1973 - Nov. 8, Harvey Pittel makes Carnegie Hall debut

1973 - Fourth WSC Meeting in Bordeaux, France

1974 - Larry Teal retires from the University of Michigan, Donald Sinta takes over

1974 - *Ross Lee Finney composes Concerto for alto saxophone and orchestra of wind instruments  for Teal's retirement.  Premiered by Sinta

1975 - Milhaud dies

1975 - Cannonball Adderly dies

1976 - Mark VII introduced with standard high F# key

1976 - Selmer's square-chamber mouthpieces marketed

1977 - 30 May, Desmond dies

1977 - Rascher's last performance

1978 - Houlik makes Carnegie Hall debut

1978 - *Lynn Klock makes Carnegie Hall debut

1978 - Merle Johnston (b. 1897 Watertown, NY) dies (revolutionized pedagogy in the US)

1979 - James Forger premieres John Anthony Lennon's Distances Within Me

1980 - Yamaha introduces 62 series

1980 - *Laura Hunter makes Carnegie Hall debut

1981 - Selmer S80 introduced

1981 - Kynaston premieres Muczynki's Concerto op. 41

1981 - Rascher retires

1981 - Houlik performs in Alice Tully Hall

1982 - Claude Delangle becomes Professor at the CNRM at Boulogne-Billancourt

1982 - Saxophone Sinfonia appears in Alice Tully Hall (D. Bilger, dir.)

1982 - 7th WSC in Nuremburg, Germany

1983 - *Amercian saxophonist Steven Jordheim wins Silver Medal (top prize) at the Geneva International Competition

1984 - William Albright Sonata written for Wytko, Sinta, and Hunter

1984 - Larry Teal dies

1984 - *John Harle makes Carnegie Hall debut

1985 - *Paul Creston dies

1985 - Joe Lulloff makes Carnegie Hall debut

1985 - Laura Hunter premieres Albright Sonata

1986 - Selmer S80 Series II introduced

1987 - *Kenneth Radnofsky premieres Donald Martino's Concerto in New Hampshire

1988 - *Claude Delangle becomes Professor of Saxophone at the Paris Conservatory

1988 - *John Sampen premieres Morton Subotnick's In Two Worlds in London

1991 - Stan Getz dies

1993 - *Timothy McAllister and Donell Synder share 1st Prize in the NASA Young Artist Competition, Fairfax, VA

1994 - *Taimur Sullivan wins 1st Prize in the NASA Young Artist Competition, Morgantown, WV

1995 - Londeix performs farewell concert                  






This site was last updated 05/23/09