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Home Adolphe Sax Institute Sigurd Rascher: A personal biography of a "saxophonist extraordinary"

Sigurd Rascher: A personal biography of a "saxophonist extraordinary"

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from Woodwind World,  February, 1971

Sigurd Rascher holds a position as saxophone artist shared by few if any others. He has been soloist with over 50 orchestras including the Boston Symphony, New York Philharmonic, Detroit and Washington orchestras in this country. In addition to the composers he names who have written works for him, his present repertoire includes Jorgen Bentzon, Henry Brant, Erwin Dressel, Will Eisenmann, W.W. Glaser, Maurice Baron, Ingolf Dahl, Francis Pyle, Ernest Kanitz, Clair Leonard and Maurice Whitney.  As we prepared this story, Mr. Rascher was leaving for a 50-appearance concert tour of Europe.
~ Frederic Fay Swift

SMR 1950s"It was probably in 1931, when I taught shop in the Rudolf Steiner School in Berlin, that I became acquainted with the music-teacher of that school, Mrs. Fourness. She played and taught the violin. Her husband was one of the viola players in the Berlin Philharmonic. Even at that time I played already Bach on the saxophone, but the original literature for my instrument was rather slim. To play Bach on the saxophone was then, even more so than today, an audacious attempt-but then, my musical education had started in my boyhood with Mozart, Schubert, Beethoven, Bach, Handel, etc. - all these masters have composed small works.

"Through my friendship with the Fournesses I was now and then asked to play saxophone in the Philharmonic, that is IN the orchestra, when, in some contemporary work there was a part scored for it. Such was the case one day in a work by Edmund von Borck, who conducted also. After the rehearsal I asked him whether he ever thought of the saxophone as a solo instrument, a thought he vigorously denied. But after I had played for him for a few minutes, he had second thoughts and asked for my address.

"I had long since forgotten all about Mr. von Borck when one day as I stood in the school's shop with a boisterous class, I was asked to come to the phone and was there told: "the concerto is ready." ... and "come to see me and play it through". Is was the long-forgotten Borck.

"The concerto was then selected for the Allgemeines Deutsches Musikfest in Hannover 1932, where I  played it under the baton of Generalmusidirektor Krasselt. It was the first time I ever played with an  orchestra and I created an unbelievable sensation, not only at the Festival but in music circles throughout Europe. It was for this reason that the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra arranged an extra concert in October, only a few months after the premiere, in order to be the first orchestra to present it to its audience. Again I was asked to be the solist, this time under the baton of Eugen Jochum. Berliners greeted the event with no less joy and enthusiasm as did the predominantly professional audience at the festival in Hannover.

"Again the press was not what one might call "lukewarm" and a rapid career seemed assured - except that early in 1933 the political situation in Germany changed drastically and henceforth such "foreign" instruments as a saxophone (after all, did it not come from Belgium and France?) were pointedly "persona no grata". Within a few weeks I left Germany and did not set foot on its soil for a full quarter century. After all there was very much music life in the rest of Europe and, as I soon was to learn by active experience, in Australia and the United States as well. In the next few years I played in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, England, Holland, France, Spain, Italy, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland, etc. Glazunow, Coates, Larsson, Ibert wrote their works for me as did many others.

"Uncounted concerts later almost to a week... 34 years, I again played with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, this time in its new hall, a stone's throw from the infamous wall. I could easily see it from the soloist's room. The conductor was the famous Andre Cluytens, under whose baton I now played my 92nd and 93rd performances of the Ibert Concerto.  Again Berliners seemed to like both the music and the performance, or they simply felt a need to stretch their legs after I had finished the last measure. Into the soloist's room crowded many music lovers- a soloist with a golden saxophone must be seen at close range. "Never before did we have a saxophone soloist with our Philharmonic." "I have been a subscriber for 20 years and this is the first...." Or- "But I remember another saxophonist a long time ago...."  This lady turned to me: "May I ask a question? You know, before the War (yes I was very young then and went to the concert with my parents) the Philharmonic DID have a saxophone player. And what puzzles me, he had the same name: Rascher. You are not his son, are you?" I did not have the courage to tell the lady that in that case I would have to be my own son!

"Prompted by this question, I asked Mr. Stresemann, the orchestra manager about other soloists on my instrument. "None" was the laconic answer.

"In the audience this time had also been my daughter Karen, with whom I was to share the stage with the Czech Philharmonic in Prague a week later. On the way back to the hotel she said dryly: "I really ought to play the Philharmonic here, and I will." Little did either of us know how soon this was to be.

"For years Karen has played concerts with me, on both sides of the pond", recitals as well as orchestra appearances. She was used to playing new works and knew that most of them, expect baroque works for example, had been composed for me. Without any fanfare, she set out to do what I had done all along, i.e. play for composers to enthuse them for HER instrument, the soprano saxophone. Soon she could play 'her music' in recital, with orchestra.  I share the composer's love for the soprano, unfortunately it is yet rarer to hear this instrument musically played than it is to hear any other saxophone.

"Again, just like in 1932, there was a real musical NOVUM... a concerto for Soprano Saxophone and Orchestra. Also this work was selected for a performance with the Berlin Philharmonic, and this time, as one wag remarked "true to family tradition" it was another Rascher playing it - Karen, in 1970.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 29 September 2010 20:55  


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