Raschèr, a classical saxophonist compared by some to Casals and
Segovia for his influence on his instrument and its concert
repertory, died on Feb. 25 at his home in Shushan, N.Y. He was
In the course of a 50-year career, Mr. Raschèr played with
virtually all the major orchestras, many of which have never had
another saxophone soloist. A critic for The New York Times wrote that the saxophone had gained
"aesthetic respectability" on Nov. 11, 1939, when Mr. Raschèr was
the first solo saxophonist for the New York Philharmonic in 3,543
Mr. Raschèr was proud of playing dance music, but he feared his
instrument's potential to add rich tones to more serious musical
fare was too often unachieved. For that failure, he blamed both
mechanical modifications in the original design of Adolphe Sax's
instrument and bad musicianship.
"The nonexistence of a traditionally recognized tone quality gave
rise to this grotesque situation," he wrote in remarks that appear
on the "Classic Saxophone On-Line!" Web site (www.classicsax.com).
"No wonder that serious musicians disdain the saxophone!"
Two years ago, when the journal American Record Guide compared
Mr. Raschèr to Casals and Segovia, it was by some measures an
understatement. For cello or guitar, the other two had available the
works of Bach, Mozart and Beethoven as well as their more modern
heirs, but the saxophone was not invented until 1841.
Mr. Raschèr first learned the clarinet and piano. When a friend
mistakenly told him the saxophone was easy to play, he picked one up
at a pawn shop and began supplementing his income as a shop teacher
in Berlin in the 1930's with dance band jobs.
But his aspirations for the saxophone soared higher. First he
perfected his technique on the instrument Sax invented to unite the
expressive power of string instruments, the force of brass
instruments and the many shadings of woodwinds. He occasionally
played in the Berlin Philharmonic when saxophones were required.
Then he approached Edmund von Borck, the composer and conductor
of the Berlin Philharmonic, and asked him whether he had ever
thought of the saxophone as a solo instrument, according to an
article in Woodwind World in 1971. Borck gave a vigorous "no," but after
Mr. Raschèr played for him for a few moments, he asked for his
Months passed, and Mr. Raschèr had almost forgotten the
conversation, when von Borck called to say a concerto was ready. The
piece was selected for a music festival in Hanover in 1932. "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," Mr. Raschèr said. He told of another
warm reception in Berlin a few months later.
But what seemed the beginning of a meteoric rise came to a halt
when the Nazis rejected "foreign" instruments like the saxophone,
which was invented in Belgium. Mr. Raschèr left Germany and did not
return for a quarter century.
He lived and taught in Copenhagen and Malmo, Sweden, performing
with symphonies throughout Europe, including ones in London, Prague,
Paris and Warsaw — more than 200 in all. He also encouraged
composers to write for the saxophone. Among those who wrote pieces
for Mr. Raschèr to play were Glazunov, Ibert and Hindemith.
Sigurd Manfred Raschèr was born on May 15, 1907, in what is now
Wuppertal, in the Westphalian section of Germany. His father was a
doctor, and he grew up surrounded by music at home. He concentrated
mainly on the clarinet in his early studies.
When a colleague in his dance band ridiculed the saxophone's
narrow range of two and a half octaves, he developed a fingering
method that let him play four octaves.
"No one before me had done this," he wrote in notes for a press
kit in the 1950's. "Today, 25 years later, some of the more
ambitious players are beginning to follow my lead."
He noted that his musical experiments were not appreciated by his
neighbors or landlady. "A quick change of habitat saved me from the
attacks," he wrote.
Mr. Raschèr's scheduled performances in New York and Boston in
1939 were followed by invitations to perform in Washington and at
Town Hall in Manhattan the next year. At the Town Hall concert,
Arturo Toscanini hugged him.
He decided to stay in the United States, where his wife, Ann
Mari, and his son, Staffan, had joined him. But after difficulties
with his immigration papers, he went to Cuba, where he spent most of
the war harvesting sugar cane.
When he returned, the family settled in Shushan. Three daughters
were born there, Kristina Raschèr, now of Düsseldorf; Carina Raschèr
of Lürrach, Germany; and Astrid Radsh of Aberdeen, Scotland. Mr. Raschèr
is also survived by a sister, Brigid Nosal of Salem, N.Y.,
and a brother, Michael, of Manhattan.
Mr. Raschèr taught at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester,
Union College, the University of Mississippi and Yale. He formed the
Raschèr Saxophone Quartet with his daughter Carina. The group is
still active, though Mr. Raschèr played his last solo at 73.
Among his other contributions to the saxophone, he revived the
making of saxophone mouthpieces in the manner Sax had originally
specified. Newer models, yielding louder but harsher tones, had
almost completely replaced them.
When asked about this and his other achievements, Mr. Raschèr always had the same straightforward response: "Someone had to do