bass clarinet Adolphe Sax


Adolphe Sax, Brussels, ca. 1840.
mim, inv. 2601.
Donated by L. Cavens.

Already in the early years of his careers as an instrument builder - still in Brussels, under the eye of his father - Sax was giving indications of an inventive spirit. Initially, he concentrated his research on the clarinet.

At the age of fourteen, the young Adolphe was studying the flute and music theory at the École royale de musique, going on to take private clarinet lessons from Valentin Bender. At the Exposition des produits de l'industrie in 1830, he exhibited ivory flutes and clarinets that he had made together with his father. In 1835, he participated for the first time in his own name in an industrial exhibition. In Brussels, he exhibited a boxwood clarinet with twenty-four keys. The clarinet is clearly the instrument that most suited him and that he mastered best, and it was not long before he began to perfect it.

Three years later, he was granted a patent for his first great innovation: a 'new system for the bass, contrabass and the bourdon clarinet', which brought about a significant improvement in the instrument and was his first great success as an instrument maker. While he was working on the clarinet, he was preparing the way for an entirely new instrument - the saxophone.

Even though this bass clarinet with inventory number 2601 bears the mark of Charles-Joseph Sax, it is certainly the work of his son Adolphe. It matches up with the Belgian patent of 1838 and still bears a few traces of experimentation. One of these is a hole that has been blocked with cork. The edge of the metal bell is fitted with a hinge to which a sound reflector (now lost) could be attached. The reflector was a sort of disk enabling the sound to be directed.

bass clarinet inv.2601
Belgian patent dated 1838. State Archives 1051
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