Saxhorn

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For the anti-tank missile, see AT-7 Saxhorn.
A modern bass saxhorn in B-flat

The saxhorn is a valved brass instrument with a conical bore and deep cup-shaped mouthpiece. The sound has a characteristic mellow quality, and blends well with other brass.

The saxhorn family[edit]

The saxhorns form a family of seven 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.[1]

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.

Foote Berlioz Forsyth Modern
--- Sopranino in C/B-flat --- ---
--- Soprano in E-flat Sopranino in E-flat Sopranino/Soprano in E-flat
--- Alto in B-flat Soprano in B-flat Soprano/Alto in B-flat
Alto in E-flat Tenor in E-flat Alto in E-flat Alto/Tenor in E-flat
Tenor in B-flat Baritone in B-flat Tenor in B-flat Tenor/Baritone in B-flat
Baritone in B-flat Bass in B-flat Bass in B-flat Baritone/Bass in B-flat
Bass in E-flat Contrabass in E-flat Bass in E-flat Bass in E-flat
Contrabass in E-flat Contrabass in B-flat Contrabass in B-flat Contrabass in B-flat
--- Contrabass in low E-flat --- ---
--- Bourdon in B-flat --- ---

Ranges of individual members[edit]

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 often plays bass clef parts, especially those written for the trombone.

History[edit]

Saxhorn used by the 1st Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment during the Civil War. The backward-facing bell version became the most common brass instrument in Civil War bands because troops marching behind the band could hear the music. From the collection of the Minnesota Historical Society.
Band of 10th Veteran Reserve Corps, Washington, D.C., April, 1865

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.

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.

Contemporary works featuring this instrument are Désiré Dondeyne's "Tubissimo" for bass tuba or saxhorn and piano (1983) and Olivier Messiaen's "Et exspecto resurrectionem mortuorum" (1984).

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ The British Brass Band : A Musical and Social History. Oxford University Press. 2000. p. 169. ISBN 0-19-816698-2. 

Discography[edit]

  • 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.

External links[edit]