The bass saxhorn, more commonly referred to as the “saxhorn”, belongs to a family of seven instruments, invented in 1844 by the famous musical instrument maker, Adolphe SAX. It is inspired by various models of tuba, created at the beginning of the nineteenth century, to which it adds a “new chromatic system”. This system of pistons improves the intonation and gives the musician a greater degree of comfort and new abilities in terms of virtuosity.
The instrument was presented at the French Industrial Exposition of 1844 in Paris and at the Great Exhibition in London in 1851, generating huge interest among musical instrument makers and musicians from around the world. The saxhorn quickly aroused the interest of composers of the time, who used it in symphony orchestras as a new bass in the brass family. It is notably present in the works of Berlioz, Franck, Ravel, Debussy and Messiaen. It is also an integral part of French military bands, and contributed to the development of the instrumentation of concert bands today. The special attention given to the saxhorn is by no means insignificant. This modern instrument offers new acoustic qualities: warm, powerful tones, and the widest tonal range in the brass family.
This instrument has been undergoing a revival for around 30 years now, thanks to the development of brass bands and concert bands. Now showcased more often, it is a popular soloist with an orchestra, or even in chamber music programmes. Finally, thanks to recent technical progress by musical instrument makers and the challenging work of performers, it is captivating and arousing the passions of the greatest composers of our time, such as Thierry ESCAICH, Michaël LEVINAS and Jean-Michel DAMASE.
Today, the bass saxhorn has its own place in the current music world, and continues to seduce an audience that is constantly increasing in both size and interest.