Adolphe Sax

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Adolphe Sax
Alto saxophone by Adolphe Sax

Adolphe Sax , actually Antoine Joseph Sax , (born November 6, 1814 in Dinant , † February 7, 1894 in Paris ) was a Belgian inventor , instrument maker and musician; he was the developer of the sax horns and the saxophone .


Adolphe Sax was one of eleven children. The Sax family moved to Brussels in 1835 , where their father, Charles Joseph Sax, a cabinet maker, opened an instrument workshop. Adolphe attended the Brussels Conservatory , where he studied flute , clarinet , singing and harmony. His first independent job as an instrument maker in his father's workshop was perfecting the clarinet and bass clarinet (patent 1838).

Without funds (his father spent a lot of money on his experiments and was supported several times by the government) he went to Paris in 1842; The only recommendation he took with him was a copy of a completely new instrument he had developed, the (soprano) saxophone , and soon attracted the attention of various personalities in Parisian musical life ( Jacques Fromental Halévy , Daniel-François-Esprit Auber, etc.). In particular, he found an energetic helper in Hector Berlioz , whom sponsors soon joined.

Sax now built the saxophone in eight different sizes (sopranino, soprano, alto, tenor, baritone, bass, double bass, sub-double bass). He then transferred his experiences, especially those of his father with regard to the best resonance of the tubes, to the construction of the trumpets , horns , tubes etc. and gave these in their new form the names Saxtromba , Saxhorn , Saxtuba etc., which are known as the “family of the Saxhorns ”became known. He also built several Aida trumpets on behalf of Giuseppe Verdi .

On March 21, 1846, Sax received a patent in France and quickly achieved great fame; his instruments were particularly introduced in French military music . The originality of his improvements was often challenged by envious competitors, whom he overtook; but the judicial decisions were always in Sax's favor. His workshop with at times 100 employees is said to have built over 20,000 instruments. Adolphe Sax, on the other hand, was not granted permanent economic success: he had to file for bankruptcy several times and died impoverished.

Sax became a saxophone teacher at the Paris Conservatory in 1857 (this position was discontinued in 1871 due to lack of funds and was refilled by Marcel Mule in 1942). He also published a school for playing the saxophone and the instruments he built. From 1858 Sax was director of the stage orchestra at the Paris Opera .

He was a knight in the Order of the Oak Crown .

Sax was accepted into the Masonic Lodge Les Vrais Amis de l'Union in 1842 . In recognition of his achievements, the asteroid (3534) Sax was named after him.

Reception in literature and theater

In 2005 the children's concert revue "The Adventures of Monsieur Sax" was created, jointly developed by Cologne actor Martin Heim and the Pindakaas Saxophone Quartet , directed by Thomas Philipzen. The piece tells the life story of Adolphe Sax and the invention of the saxophone family in a child-friendly manner. In 2007 the Westdeutsche Rundfunk Köln broadcast a radio play version of the piece live, and in 2008 the children's radio play CD "The Adventures of Monsieur Sax" was released. This received an honorable mention from the jury at the German Children's Radio Play Prize as part of the ARD Radio Play Days 2008.

Trademark rights Adolphe Sax & Cie

The Belgian Karel Goetghebeur bought the rights to the name “Adolphe Sax & Cie” and has been trying since 2012 to revive the lost brand.




  • The Devil's Horn - The dark side of the saxophone. (OT: The Devil's Horn - The History and the Curse of the Saxophone. ) Documentary, Canada, 2016, 81:08 min., Book: David Mortin, Michael Segell, David New, director: Larry Weinstein, production: arte , ZDF , German first broadcast: August 28, 2016 by arte, table of contents by ARD , u. a. with Jimmy Heath , Albert "Tootie" Heath , Yuri Yunakov, Giuseppi Logan , Colin Stetson , François Louis (saxophone reed maker ).

Web links

Commons : Adolphe Sax  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Inventor Adolphe Sax - The saxophone brought him fame and resentment
  2. EUmagazin . Center for European Economic Research, 1994 (accessed on November 5, 2014).
  3. ^ Karl Ventzke, Claus Raumberger, Dietrich Hilkenbach: The saxophone . Verlag Das Musikinstrument, 1979, ISBN 978-3-920112-68-8 .
  4. CP Mulder en PA Christiaans, Onderscheidingen van de Koning-Groothertog, De Orde van de Eikenkroon 1841-1891, 1999, ISBN 90-804747-1-1
  5. de Het merk "Adolphe Sax" is terug , accessed on November 6, 2014
  7. Jutta Lambrecht (review): Dirk Josczok: Adolphe Sax. Audiobook. In: info-netz-musik , July 11, 2011, accessed on November 2, 2014.