Valentin Bender’s Sax clarinet


In 1832, in the recently created country of Belgium, King Leopold I asked [Jean-] Valentin Bender (1801-1873), a musician of German origin, to create an elite military band. First attached to his cavalry escort, it was nicknamed the "King's Music". The Music Band of the 1st Regiment of Guides, under Bender's direction, was made up of wind instruments from the woodwind and brass families, and percussion. The clarinet was the main melodic instrument, played by Bender, while leading the group.

At a major festival of military bands on 26 September 1833 on the Place Royale (the location of MIM today), Bender, the "king of clarinettists", performed solos to the delight of the public. Imagine the scene: a huge wooden podium was erected in front of the church of Saint-Jacques-sur-Coudenberg where at least 430 military musicians were assembled under the energetic direction of François-Joseph Fétis (1784-1871), the first director of the Brussels Conservatory (whose collection of instruments formed the basis for the creation of our museum). Several thousand people, including the King and Queen, attended this gigantic concert.

The day after this grand festival, on 27 September, as part of the official commemorations of the independence of Belgium in September 1830, instruments ordered by Minister Charles Rogier from Charles Joseph Sax (1790-1865) were given to the participating bands. Valentin Bender personally received a magnificent clarinet with the following inscription: « INSTRUMENT D'HONNEUR / Décerné / à / Mr V. BENDER / Par le / GOUVERNEMENT / BELGE », together with the Sax manufacturer's mark and the date 1833.

The Band of the 1st Regiment of Guides, which still enjoys an international reputation today, has deposited this prestigious historical object in the Musical Instruments Museum in Brussels, where it can be seen by the wider public. The clarinet, highlighted in the month that celebrates Belgian National Day, will shortly be integrated into the historical circuit of the collections.

We note in passing that the MIM holds another instrument belonging to Valentin Bender, his small clarinet in E flat, made by the French instrument maker Francois Lefevre (inv. 0173, see Valentin Bender also wrote the first arrangement of the Belgian national anthem La Brabançonne, and composed several works - including the famous March of the 1st Regiment of Guides - and he was the teacher of a certain Adolphe Sax.


Géry Dumoulin

translation: Fiona Shotter





F. Pieters, La Musique Royale des Guides. Un siècle d'enregistrements, Brussels, Les Amis de la Musique Royale des Guides, 2003.

F. Pieters, Van trompetsignaal tot muziekkapel. Anderhalve eeuw militaire muziek in België, Kortrijk, Music centre, 1981.

De la musique particulière du Roi au grand orchestre d'harmonie des Guides, 1832-1982, Brussels, Impr. des Forces armées, s.d.


Klarinet in Bes, Ch-J Sax, Brussel, 1833, inv. D2017.001, © mim, S. Egan
detail van de beker, © mim, S. Egan
instrument in het originele kistje © mim, S. Egan
Charles Baugniet, Valentin Bender, lithografie, 1841. inv. MIMICO2014.017.
Joseph Schubert, Charles-Joseph Sax, lithografie, 1844, inv. MIMICO IV.2.
de Gidsen, olv Y. Segers, Brussel, 2012, © BE Defensie / DG COM, foto D. Orban
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