|Adolphe Sax (1814-1894)|
Antoine-Joseph Sax was born in Dinant, Belgium, as the oldest of 11 children to Charles-Joseph Sax, an instrument designer, who made several changes to the design of the horn. Sax became his father's apprentice and began to make his own instruments at an early age, entering two of his flutes and a clarinet into a competition at the age of 15. He subsequently studied those two instruments at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels.
|The Saxtuba, one of|
Adolphe Sax's instruments
Together with his genius for mechanical invention Sax seems to have combined a knowledge of self-advertisement, and his name was often prefixed to successful types of instrument for the invention of which he was not primarily responsible. Sax also developed the saxotromba family, valved brass instruments with narrower bore than the saxhorns, in 1845, though they survived only briefly. Saxhorn instruments spread rapidly throughout the world. The saxhorn valves were accepted as state of the art and are largely unchanged today. On June 22, 1846 he registered the saxophone and won his gold medal at the Paris Industrial Exposition in 1849. By the ned of the year Sax had designed, on paper, a full range of saxophones (from sopranino to subcontrabass). Although they never became standard orchestral instruments, the saxophones made his reputation and secured him a job, teaching at the Paris Conservatoire in 1857.
"Its principal merit in my view is the varied beauty of its accent, sometimes serious, sometimes calm, sometimes impassioned, dreamy or melancholic, or vague, like the weakened echo of an echo, like the indistinct plaintiff moans of the breeze in the woods and, even better, like the mysterious vibrations of a bell, long after it has been struck; there does not exist another musical instrument that I know of that possesses this strange resonance, which is situated at the edge of silence." (Hextor Berlioz about the Saxophone)Sax's workshop sold some 20,000 instruments between 1843 and 1860, but he was not a talented money manager, and sales were not enough to keep him solvent. He filed for bankruptcy three times, in 1852, 1873, and 1877, and he was saved from a fourth debacle only by the intervention of another of his admirers, Emperor Napoleon III. He also effected various improvements in piston instruments, of which the most important was the substitution of a single ascending piston for a number of descending ones. Sax suffered from lip cancer between 1853 and 1858 but made a full recovery. In 1870 Sax's position at the Paris Conservatory was terminated in the aftermath of the Franco-Prussian War, and he lived his final years in straitened circumstances, kept out of poverty only by a small pension arranged for him by an admirer. He died in 1894 in Paris and was interred in the Cimetière de Montmartre.
At yovisto, you can learn more about the saxophone in the lecture of Dr. Amy Muchnick on woodwind instruments, entitled "The Instrument Families 2".
References and Further Reading:
-  Antoine Joseph Sax at Encyclopedia Britannica
-  Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2008, at Encyclopedia.com
-  Adolphe Sax on the Website of Dinant, Belgium