The saxhorn family
The saxhorns form a family of seven brass instruments (although at one point ten different sizes seem to have existed). Designed for band use, they are pitched alternately in E-flat and B-flat, like the saxophone group.
Historically much confusion exists as to the nomenclature of the various instruments in different languages. During the 19th century, the now-pointless debate as to whether the saxhorn family was truly new, or rather a development of members of the previously existing cornet and tuba families, or copied directly from the flügelhorn was the subject of bitter and prolonged lawsuits.
The following table lists the members of the saxhorn family as described in the orchestration texts of Hector Berlioz and Cecil Forsyth, the J. Howard Foote catalog of 1893, and modern names. The modern instrument names continue to exhibit inconsistency, denoted by a "/" between the two names in use. All of the "modern" instrument names represent exceedingly rare instruments with the exception of the E♭ Tenor/Alto (unless one counts, controversially, the baritone horn as the B♭ Tenor/Baritone member of the family). In the table "Pitch" means the concert pitch of notational Middle C on each instrument (2nd partial, no valves depressed) in scientific pitch notation.
|---||Sopranino in C/B-flat||---||---||C5/B♭4|
|---||Soprano in E-flat||Sopranino in E-flat||Sopranino/Soprano in E-flat||E♭4|
|---||Alto in B-flat||Soprano in B-flat||Soprano/Alto in B-flat||B♭3|
|Alto in E-flat||Tenor in E-flat||Alto in E-flat||Alto/Tenor in E-flat||E♭3|
|Tenor in B-flat||Baritone in B-flat||Tenor in B-flat||Tenor/Baritone in B-flat||B♭2|
|Baritone in B-flat||Bass in B-flat||Bass in B-flat||Baritone/Bass in B-flat||B♭1|
|Bass in E-flat||Contrabass in E-flat||Bass in E-flat||Bass in E-flat||E♭1|
|---||Contrabass in B-flat||Contrabass in B-flat||Contrabass in B-flat||B♭0|
|Contrabass in E-flat||Contrabass in low E-flat||---||---||E♭0|
|---||Bourdon in B-flat||---||---||B♭-1 (?)|
This list is not exhaustive of historic nomenclature for the saxhorns, for which there may exist no comprehensive and authoritative source.
Ranges of individual members
The saxhorn is based on the same three-valve system as most other valved brass instruments. Each member of the family is named after the root note produced by the second partial with no valves actuated. Each member nominally possesses or possessed the typical three-valve brass range from the note one tritone below that root note (second partial, all valves actuated) to the note produced by eighth partial with no valves actuated, i.e., the note two octaves above the root note.
All the modern members of the family are transposing instruments written in the treble clef with the root note produced by the second partial with no valves actuated being written as middle C, though baritone horn (sometimes viewed as being a saxhorn family member despite its being a predominately cylindrical, rather than conical, instrument) often plays bass clef parts, especially those written for the trombone.
Developed during the mid-to-late 1830s, the saxhorn family was patented in Paris in 1845 by Adolphe Sax. Sax's claim to have invented the instrument was hotly contested by other brass instrument makers during his lifetime, leading to various lawsuits. Throughout the mid-1850s, he continued to experiment with the instrument's valve pattern.
The Trojan March (Marche Troyenne) of the Berlioz opera Les Troyens (1856–58) features an on-stage band which includes a family of saxhorns.
Saxhorns were popularized by the distinguished Distin Quintet, who toured Europe during the mid-19th century. This family of musicians, publishers and instrument manufacturers had a significant impact on the growth of the brass band movement in Britain during the mid- to late-19th century.
The saxhorn was the most common brass instrument in American Civil War bands. The over-the-shoulder variety of the instrument was used, as the backward-pointing bell of the instrument allowed troops marching behind the band to hear the music.
- J. Howard Foote catalog, 1893
- Berlioz, Hector (1948). Treatise on Instrumentation. Edwin F. Kalmus.
- Forsyth, Cecil (1982). Orchestration. New York: Dover Publications. ISBN 0-486-24383-4.
- Jachino, Carlo (1978). Gli strumenti d'orchestra. Milano: Edizioni Curci.
- Saxhorn et piano - Hybrid'Music Label - October 2008
- David Maillot, saxhorn - Géraldine Dutroncy, piano - Works by Eugène Bozza, Marcel Bitsch, Jacques Castérède, Alain Bernaud, Henri Tomasi, Claude Pascal, Gérard Devos and Roger Boutry.
- 14 Volumes of saxhorn band are available featuring The First Brigade Band.