Antoine-Joseph (known as Adolphe) Sax was born in Dinant on 6 November 1814. When he was a child, his father, who had by then moved to Brussels, showed him how to make woodwind and brass instruments. At a very early age he showed himself to have an inventive mind and exceptional musical ability. Throughout his life Adolphe Sax displayed energy, dynamism, determination, imagination, and brilliance in a career that saw him become an instrument-maker, a soloist, an acoustician, a composer, an orchestral conductor, a teacher, and a publisher. He perfectly embodied the spirit of the 19th century, all-conquering and confident in the future. In addition to making improvements to numerous instruments (including the clarinet, the bassoon, the timpani, and the pan pipes), he invented several instrument families: saxhorns, saxotrombas, saxtubas, and, of course, saxophones. The reforms he introduced to military bands led him to be regarded as the father of modern wind and brass bands. He also oversaw the first saxophone course at the Paris Conservatory.
The invention of the saxophone provoked considerable controversy, but also made Sax, who had moved to Paris, famous. The instrument, with its new timbre, won over many composers of the time and, somewhat later, became a great favourite of jazz musicians. Adolphe Sax had unquestionably revolutionised music, but he died destitute on 7 February 1894 in Paris, where he was buried in Montmartre cemetery. His son Adolphe-Edouard ran the family business until 1929, when the Adolphe Sax workshops on Rue Myrha in Paris were taken over by H. Selmer & Cie. Today, with 125 years of experience to its name, the Maison Selmer in Paris, special musical partner of the International Adolphe Sax Association, is still the exclusive property of the founder's family. Its headquarters are in the centre of Paris (in the République district), while manufacturing takes place at its factory in Mantes-la-Ville.
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Adolphe Sax, Dinantais génial, Albert Remy
Adolphe Sax, 1814-1894, Inventeur de génie, Jean-Pierre Rorive, Editions Racine. For sale at CCRD costs 20€.