Orsi curved sopranino saxophone (c. 2000)
(Single-reeded aerophone with keys)
|Developed||28 June 1846|
In E♭: sounds a minor third higher than written.
Military band family:
The sopranino saxophone is one of the smallest members of the saxophone family. It is tuned in the key of E♭, and sounds an octave higher than the alto saxophone. The sopranino saxophone has a sweet sound and although it is one of the least common of the saxophones in regular use today, it is still being produced by several of the major musical manufacturing companies. Due to their small size, sopraninos are not usually curved like other saxophones. Orsi, however, does make curved sopranino saxophones.
The original patented saxophone family, as developed by Adolphe Sax, included sopranino, soprano, alto, tenor, baritone, bass, contrabass, and subcontrabass instruments (although he never built the last). Since the late 20th century, however, a B♭ piccolo, or sopranissimo saxophone (called soprillo, and tuned a fifth above the sopranino) and a B♭ subcontrabass instrument (called tubax, also made in C) have been developed by the German instrument maker Benedikt Eppelsheim, although they are, technically, not true saxophones. Thus, the E♭ sopranino, originally the smallest size of saxophone, can now be considered the second smallest.
The most notable use of the sopranino is in the orchestral work Boléro by Maurice Ravel. Although Ravel called for a soprano saxophone in F, this member of the "concert" family of saxophones never gained popularity and is no longer in existence. Outside of classical music, notable jazz and improvising musicians using this instrument include Carla Marciano, James Carter, Anthony Braxton, La Monte Young, Roscoe Mitchell, Joseph Jarman, Paul McCandless, Lol Coxhill, Roger Frampton, Hans Koller,Wolfgang Fuchs, Douglas Ewart, Larry Ochs, Vinny Golia, Thomas Chapin, Martin Archer, Jon Irabagon,Massimo Falascone, Gianni Gebbia, Garth Hudson (seen playing one in the film The Last Waltz) and Ian Anderson (credited with having played the instrument on the Jethro Tull albums A Passion Play and War Child). The sopranino saxophone is also used in the six-member Nuclear Whales Saxophone Orchestra, currently played by Kelley Hart Jenkins.
Being the highest representative of the original saxophone family, the sopranino sax is notable for its "juicy" and expressive sound, reminiscent of the sonority of the E♭ clarinet, but with a more tender tone.