Nov 062015


Today is the birthday (1814) of Antoine-Joseph “Adolphe” Sax, a Belgian inventor and musician who invented the saxophone. He played the flute and clarinet, and his other creations are the saxotromba, saxhorn and saxtuba. Sax was born in Dinant in Belgium. While his first name was Antoine, he was referred to as Adolphe from childhood. His father and mother were instrument makers and designers themselves, who made several changes to the design of the horn. Here’s a couple of images of their creations (the clarinet is ivory):

saxIvoryClarinet1 sax11

Adolphe began to make his own instruments at an early age, entering two of his flutes and a clarinet into a competition at the age of 15. He subsequently studied performance on those two instruments as well as voice at the Royal Conservatory of Brussels. After he left the Conservatory, Sax began to experiment with new instrument designs, while his parents continued to make conventional instruments to bring money into the household. Adolphe’s first important invention was an improvement of the bass clarinet design, which he patented at the age of 24.

sax12 sax9

Sax relocated permanently to Paris in 1841 and began working on a new set of instruments exhibited there in 1844. These were valved bugles, and although he had not invented the instrument itself, his examples were so much more successful than those of his rivals that they became known as saxhorns. They range in approximately seven different sizes, and paved the path to the creation of the flugelhorn. Today, saxhorns are sometimes used in concert bands and orchestras. The saxhorn also laid the groundwork for the modern euphonium. Sax also developed the saxotromba family, valved brass instruments with narrower bore than the saxhorns, in 1845, though they survived only briefly.

sax5 sax4 sax3

Saxhorn instruments spread rapidly throughout the world. The saxhorn valves were accepted as state of the art and are largely unchanged today. The advances made by Adolphe Sax were soon followed by the British brass band movement which exclusively adopted the saxhorn range. The Jedforest Instrumental Band formed in 1854 and The Hawick Saxhorn Band formed in 1855, within the Scottish Borders, a decade after saxhorn models became available.


The period around 1840 saw Sax inventing the clarinette-bourdon, an early unsuccessful design of contrabass clarinet. He developed around this time the instrument for which he is now best known, the saxophone, patented on 28 June 1846. The saxophone was invented for use in both orchestras and concert bands. Composer Hector Berlioz wrote approvingly of the new instrument in 1842. By 1846 Sax had designed, on paper, a full range of saxophones (from sopranino to subcontrabass). Although they never became standard orchestral instruments, the saxophones made his reputation and secured him a job, teaching at the Paris Conservatoire in 1857.


Sax continued to make instruments later in life and presided over the new saxophone class at the Paris Conservatoire. Rival instrument makers attacked the legitimacy of his patents and mounted a long campaign of litigation against Sax and his company. He was driven into bankruptcy in 1856 and again in 1873.

Sax suffered from lip cancer between 1853 and 1858 but made a full recovery. He died in 1894 in Paris and was interred in section 5 (Avenue de Montebello) at the Cimetière de Montmartre in Paris.


Flamiche or flamique, a kind of quiche with a brioche crust is a specialty of Dinant and of Walloon cuisine. It is essentially a tart made from a base of low-fat cheese (boulette de Romedenne) butter and eggs, is eaten hot and traditionally accompanied by Savigny, a Burgundy wine. It probably originates in Picardy where the filling includes leeks. You can add other ingredients such as chopped leeks or ham, or anything else you would add to a conventional quiche.




350 g flour
1 pinch of salt
1 egg, beaten
85 g of butter
2 dl milk
20 g yeast


200 g Romedenne cheese
150 g butter
3 eggs, beaten
salt and pepper


Dissolve the yeast in the milk which has been warmed slightly, and let sit for a few minutes.

Mix the flour with salt, beaten egg, softened butter, milk and yeast with your hands, or in a mixer using a dough hook.

Knead the dough vigorously for about 20 minutes, then roll it into a ball and let it rise in an oiled bowl in a warm place covered with a cloth. When it has doubled in volume roll it on a floured surface as thinly as possible and use it to line a greased quiche mold.

Grate the cheese and butter and add them to the beaten eggs. Season with salt and pepper.

Pour this batter into the dough shell and bake at 180 °C for about 40 minutes. Check that the filling has set properly and the crust has browned. Serve hot straight from the oven.