Links

The Central Coast Philharmonia

Rare Saxophones

Contrary to the largely held belief that the saxophone was always a jazz instrument and that it has no classical repitore, this wonderfully versatile orchestral instrument actually has a deep classical founding. Invented by master instrument engineer Adolphe Sax in 1842, the Bass Saxophone was the first to be constructed in response from a request by Berlioz to have a stronger low reed instrument. Sax had had the invention of the modern brass family, calliope, and the bass clarinet to his name and Berlioz requested a new instrument that would combine the "power of the brasses, the agility of the woodwinds, the sonority of the strings, the range of a keyboard, and the flexibility of a human voice"(Quoted from Jay Easton, A Small Tribute to Adolphe Sax, © Jay Easton 2001-2003, Page 1). The saxophone family is surly an adequate response to that.


Of all the saxophones Sax invented, few are common today. Only alto, soprano, tenor and baritone are common. The original bass is often only rarely encountered and so are many other members. The saxes were built in two lineages, the band instruments (that we use today) that alternate in Bb and Eb keys, and the orchestral line in F and C. There was a C soprano, C Tenor (C-Melody Saxophone) and an F mezzo-soprano saxophone. The F mezzo-soprano has a slightly thinner, yet smoother sound than the alto; and in the upper register, is much more like a soprano saxophone. It is extremely rare. The C-Melody is a smooth vibrant orchestral saxophone with a timbre uniquely between the tenor and the alto. It is the most common saxophone in C, but it is still very rare. Genesis will feature C-Melody Sax solos in the Violin Concerto, and feature two F Mezzo-Soprano Saxophones in the Anniversary Song.
The Bass Saxophone carries considerable power and relative agility, though it is very difficult to handle. Easily king of the reeds in the absence of the larger contrabass saxophone, it is fundamentally effective in every gesture it plays with an ensemble, and its possibilities are severely underrated. A powerful and characteristic solo and ensemble voice, the bass sax really belongs in the orchestra. Genesis will feature bass sax in the Four Poems, movement IV, as well as in the symphony Reflections of Honor. The Bass Sax is seriously a force to be reckoned with and carries a potential that is relatively untapped.
Some Technical Info:
All saxophones are written in treble clef, regardless of their sounding pitch. The lowest third of any saxophone allows the air to flow through the fundamental chamber and thus that range is very powerful. High saxophone is always smooth and sweet, and the sax is capable of extremes in dynamic and much agility, as well as clear fingered quartertones and many multiphonics. Its conical bore is what makes it fundamentally different than the clarinet, and is what gives it the added force. Saxes blend very well, and they blend with each other as a family better than any other group of instruments, including the strings, yet each member can be an extremely characteristic and individual solo voice. A sax section has a lot to add to a symphony orchestra, as they were invented to be orchestral instruments, and in the opinion of composer Adam Gilberti, no orchestra is complete without them.

Learn more about other Special Instruments

1