Published on 16 November 2022
Located in Fiumicino, a stone's throw from Rome, this museum celebrates the history and evolution of the saxophone in all its metamorphoses, through exhibitions, interactive installations, musical performances and a multi-generational educational programme.
The Museo del Saxofono (Saxophone Museum) holds the largest collection of saxophones in the world created by Attilio Berni, saxophonist, teacher and collector. With over six hundred musical instruments, almost five hundred old photographs and a thousand mouthpieces, accessories, documents and vintage objects, this collection bears witness to research into the instrument and its technical evolution.
Many rare instruments can be admired, from Adolphe Sax's first models to the first attempts to combine electronics with the saxophone, from the tiny 32 cm Eppelsheim soprillo to the gigantic 2 metre Orsi double bass saxophone… The museum also houses unusual variants of the saxophone such as the rothophone, the slide saxophone and the jazzophone.
Among the SELMER instruments are the Mark VI Varitone tenor saxophone, Rudy Wiedoeft's gold-plated Model 22 C Melody saxophone, and the Large Bore Artist (one of five decorated with 14 precious stones, the only gold-plated one, made in France in 1928 for Ralph James, the first alto saxophonist in Sam Wooding's band).
In addition to this large collection, the museum offers a bi-monthly concert programme with the great names of Italian jazz (Rosario Giuliani, Max Ionata, Luca Velotti…) and classical music (Jacopo Taddei, Giammarco Casani, Cicchirillo Alessandro…).
This year the museum has also published a magnificent book rich in photographs, in-depth studies and technical-descriptive annotations of the various metamorphoses of the instruments, interwoven with personal stories of the inventors and musicians who played them…
► To order the book
Adolphe Sax, who unfortunately could not have witnessed the full blossoming of the saxophone, would certainly be extremely proud of this museum dedicated to his most famous invention!
St. Louis Gold Medal alto saxophone
Production year: 1904
Finish: Brass body, nickel plated finish, bell engraved "Henri Selmer - 4 PLACE DANCOURT PARIS - MEDAILLE D'OR St. LOUIS 1904"
Range: From low Bb to High F
After receiving a gold medal for its clarinets at the St. Louis exhibition in 1904 and facing strong competition from other French manufacturers, SELMER diversified its production. The St. Louis model was the first saxophone actually designed by SELMER, although it was produced in the workshop of Adolphe Sax's son at 84 rue Myrha in Paris.
Modèle 22 Curved Soprano
Production year: 1922
Serial number: 3745
Finish: Silver plated
Range: From low Bb to high Eb
Originally, the sopranos invented by Adolphe Sax were straight, but the curved soprano was very popular in the 1920s and 1930s. The Model 22 is the first model officially produced by Henri SELMER Paris and has the holes for B and B flat both on the left side. It is a particularly rare version of the curved soprano.
C-Melody Modèle 22
Production year: 1925
Serial number : 3294
Finish: Satin gold plated finish, polished gold plated keys, floral motifs with letters R.W. (Rudy Wiedoeft)
Range: From low Bb to high F
The C saxophones were part of the original patent, registered by Adolphe Sax in Paris in 1846, and were very popular until the 1930s. This example belonged to saxophonist Rudy Wiedoeft, one of the most important American musicians of the 1920s. His most famous piece, “Saxophobia”, from 1918, remains the best-selling saxophone single in history.
Super Sax Bass
Production year: 1932
Serial number: 16462
Finish : Silver plated
Range : From low Bb to high Eb
The bass saxophone, originally conceived in C by Adolphe Sax, was first used in 1844 by Hector Berlioz in one of his arrangements of the Sacred Anthem and in December of that year made its debut with the Paris Conservatoire Orchestra in G. Kastner's opera The Last King of Judah. The saxophonist Adrian Rollini - to whom this instrument belonged - brought it to the top of the fame, becoming its greatest representative in the 1930s.
Mark VI Sopranino
Production year: 1963
Serial number: 110728
Finish: Gold lacquer, floral motifs
Range: From Low Bb to high Eb
The e-flat sopranino is regarded as a very delicate instrument with respect to both its playing approach as well as its fabrication. Its is used more frequently in the contemporary repertoire than in the jazz or pop one. The most noteworthy use of the sopranino is found in Maurice Ravel's Bolero, who originally wrote the part for a F sopranino, although it is highly unlikely that such an instrument was ever built.
Mark VI Varitone Tenor
Production year: 1966
Serial number : 137032
Characteristics : Varitone model with built-in microphone, mixer and equalizer, and separate case with preamplifier, amplifier, and speakers. The instrument was owned by Sonny Rollins.
Range : From low Bb to high F
In 1965 SELMER began developing a saxophone with a sound amplification and modulation system connected to the instrument. A small mixing unit on the body of the instrument allowed the musician to have control over the volume and quality of the sound, it could also produce effects such as echo, tremolo and a doubling of the sound produced in the lower octave. Less than 50 were built.
► See the Museum website
► Learn more about the invention and history of the saxophone