Montreux Statues & Monuments
July 5, 2014, the Montreux Jazz Festival celebrated the bicentenary of the birth of Adolphe Sax.
The instrument, decorated by the Liège artist Fabrizio Borrini, is now permanently installed on the Montreux quai side just in front of the Convention Center.
Adolphe Sax has forever marked jazz music by creating a new instrument that has made the fame of the greatest jazzmen who came to Montreux.
For this event nearly 200 saxophonists from all over Switzerland walked and played in the streets of Montreux before the Major of the town, Laurent Wehrli, welcomed the Belgian consul Danielle Haven.
A concert directed by Belgian chef Alain Crépin followed in the evening at the Montreux Congress Center.
Adolphe Sax Biography
Inventor of instruments, Adolphe Sax perfectly embodies the spirit of enterprise of the 19th century. He is one of the most prominent figures of this century's wind instruments and is best known for inventing the saxophone.
Everything begins November 6, 1814, Antoine Joseph Sax, called Adolphe Sax, was born in Dinant, a small town of the Meuse in Belgium. He is the first of 11 children of Charles Joseph Sax, instrument manufacturer, nowned for the manufacture of brass instruments but also woods, violins and guitars.
It is therefore in a musical environment that the young Adolphe grows up and makes his first experiences. He studied at the Conservatory of Brussels and began working on various instruments in the paternal workshop.
Heir to the inventive spirit of his father, he applies his theories based on the ratio of the proportions of the tube of the wind instruments. In 1830, when he was only 15 years old, he presented two flutes and an ivory clarinet to the Bruxelles Industrial Contest.
Starting of a tormented career
An incident broke out at the Great Harmony of Brussels. A clarinetist, jealous, accustomed to the old model of the bass clarinet, threatened to leave the orchestra if the orchestra imposed Sax's clarinet. Adolphe then challenged his antagonist to a musical duel in which everyone would interpret the work with his instrument.
The result was without appeal: a triumph for Sax's clarinet.
Two French musical personalities, François Antoine Habeneck (violinist, composer and conductor) and Jacques-Fromental Halévy (a well-known composer) were present in the concert hall that day.
They were both impressed by Adolphe's performance.
Some following days Adolphe Sax received a letter from Jacques-Fromental Halévy which said : "Hurry up to finish your new instruments and help the poor composers who are seeking for new sounds and the public who are also asking to hear it". The friendly type of this letter comforted him in the idea of attempting “the Parisian adventure”.
He named this instrument by his family name: the saxophon.
The saxophone consists of four fundamental parts: the neck, the body, the U-shaped bow, and the round, flared bell. Along the length of the instrument, there are 25 tone holes.
A few months later, Sax landed in Paris and introduced the saxophone to Hector Berlioz who was very impressed by the sound of this new instrument. The composer wrote an article in the highly intellectual "Journal des Débats" June 12, 1842. He mentions: "The sound is of a such a nature that I do not know actually of any instrument which can be compared to this one. It's full, mellow, vibrant, of enormous force, and susceptible to be softened”.
Berlioz has confirmed his admiration for the instrument by composing the very first work with saxophone: "Sacred Song" for wind sextet.
From their first meeting, a sincere friendship was born between Berlioz and Sax. Thanks to the help and support of Berlioz and of François-Antoine Habeneck, Sax is propelled into the Parisian musical world.
Encouraged, he will develop a serie of 7 saxophones and, in 1846, he did copyright his invention. He declares on this occasion: "We know that, in general, the wind instruments are either too hard or too soft in their sound. [...] I wanted to create an instrument that could be closer to string instruments, but which possessed more strength and intensity than the latter".
But Parisian life was also full of danger ! Victim of his talent and jealousy of competitors and mediocre artists, Sax will be dragged into an endless chain of trials that finaly ruined him. Throughout this sad period, Berlioz has been at his side to encourage and support him with his various articles. Other personalities will openly appreciate the work of Sax including King Louis-Philippe, Emperor Napoleon II who saved him one day from bankruptcy, General de Rumigny, Ambassador of France in Belgium or the great Italian composer Gioachino Rossini.
The end of a life devoted to music
Ruined, Sax lived the end of his life in poverty. He was sheltered in a modest pension made available for him by the French government. He died at the age of 80 and was buried in the Montmartre cemetery.
His sons tried to continue to operate the paternal factory for some time but have been forced to sell it in 1928.
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