Oscar Adler

Oscar Adler tenor saxophone, vintage, German

Oscar Adler Tenor, unknown model, serial # 8884  Source: eBay.de

Company History: Where It All Started

Franz Oscar Adler was a third-generation musical craftsman. Born in Hermsgrün in 1862, both his father and his grandfather were musical-instrument makers.

Oscar Adler & Co. was founded by Franz in 1885, in the building that his father built in Markneukirchen at Klingenthaler Straße 20.¹ Despite this combination residence/business headquarters still being home to the family’s musical instrument manufacturing business, Franz ran his Oscar Adler & Co. out of there for approximately 10 years. In circa 1895, the company relocated to Bergstraße 14 in Markneukirchen.²

At the turn of 20th century, Oscar Adler employed over 50 people in their plant. They were busy making clarinets, flutes, bassoons, oboes, and English horns. Beginning in 1901, they also made saxophones.

Oscar Adler tenor saxophone, vintage German

Tenor serial# 8472 Source: eBay.de

In 1901, Oscar Adler was recognized to have built the first saxophone in the German-speaking region. The instrument that Adler used as a model, was a 1889 Bb tenor saxophone built by Gautrot-Marquet. The instrument had been acquired by the museum of design in Markneukirchen, especially for that purpose.

Oscar Adler—who had help from both Julius and Max Keilwerth, among others—was the leader for all things sax for more than 20 years. It wasn’t until Julius Keilwerth started manufacturing saxophones under his own name, and Kohlert became noteworthy, that Adler lost their top-dog status.

From the beginning of the saxophone production until WWI, Oscar Adler exported the majority of their saxophones to the United States. It was also during that time that Franz Oscar Adler was removed from his own company due to financial reasons. Apparently Franz took more money out the company than he was entitled to.

From 1909 onwards, the Oscar Adler company was run solely by the Jordan family. Adler’s brother-in-law, Hermann Fürchtegott Jordan, had been in an equal partner in the business since 1896, and had already contributed substantially to the financing of the company’s expansions and so forth.

Post World War I

After WWI, the Oscar Adler company began to build some very interesting instruments. Besides making their regular clarinets in wood, metal, and hard rubber, with Albert, Boehm, or German fingering systems, they also made Sonora model clarinets with covered tone holes. These Sonora clarinets were available in German, Boehm, and saxophone fingering systems.

In addition to making saxophone-keyed clarinets, they also made a saxophone-oboe. This sax-oboe was available in either grenadilla or ebony. This allowed saxophone players to double very easily on a double reed, without having to learn a new fingering system. For those players who had troubles with a double reed, a mouthpiece that used a single reed was available.

Saxophone players who had special requests for key locations were also taken into consideration by Oscar Adler. This potentially opened up the buying pool to include more WWI veterans with finger injuries.

An Oscar Adler brochure explained that when ordering the Eterna, Sonora, and Triumph models, the buyer needed to specify if they wanted the duplicate Eb to be for the right ring or middle finger. If it was ordered for the middle finger, then the duplicate low Bb, B, and C# keys—which were operated by the middle finger of the right hand—were left off the horn.

The same paragraph goes on to describe that on the Gloria, Eterna, Sonora, and Triumph models, the buyer needed to specify if they wanted to have the bells keys located on the right side, or if they wished to have split bell keys on the sax. Sadly, there is no date of publication given for the brochure.

Oscar Adler Models: There Was A Lot Them

Oscar Adler offered 11 different models of saxophones, in all the usual finishes. From the cheapest model Ocu—which is often misspelled as Ocru in the literature—to the top of the line Triumph, their offerings ran the full range of the saxophone family from the soprano to the contrabass. In 2006, Uwe Ladwig found out that Adler also had a sopranino in the works (see chart for dates). This information came from the former Manager of Gebrüder Mönnig Oscar Adler & Co Holzblasinstrumentenbau GmbH, Mr. Veit Schindler. This company has in its possession all the original saxophones of the Oscar Adler company. The original horns in their collection range from the prototype of sopraninos, through to bass saxophones.

The following is a chart which outlines the models and features of Oscar Adler saxophones. This chart was compiled by Uwe using a number of vintage catalogues, as well as other resources.

Model Comments Eb Sopran-ino C Soprano Bb Soprano Bb Curved Soprano Eb Alto  C Melody  Bb Tenor Eb Baritone C Bass Bb Bass Eb Contrabass Catalogue 
Ocu No rollers. Keyed from low B to high F.

 

 

*

 

*

*

*

*

 

 

 

1932

Relda No rollers. Keyed from low B to high F.

 

 

*

 

*

*

*

*

 

 

 

1932

Odeum No rollers. Keyed from low B to high F. Low Bb available for an extra charge.

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

 

1929

Orfeon No rollers. Keyed from low B to high F. Low Bb available for an extra charge.

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

 

1929

Electra No rollers. Keyed from low B to high F. Low Bb available for an extra charge.

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

 

1929

Racso With rollers. Keyed from low Bb to high F.

 

 

*

 

*

*

*

*

*

*

 

1932

Symphonie With roller. Low Bb available only for an extra charge.

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

 

1929

Gloria With rollers. Micro tuner on alto & tenor models. Keyed from low Bb to high F. Split or right bell keys available.

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

 

1932

Eterna With mother of pearl rollers. Micro tuner on alto & tenor models. Keyed from low Bb to high F. Split or right bell keys available.

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

1932

Sonora With mother of pearl rollers. Micro tuner on alto & tenor models. Keyed from low Bb to high F. Split or right bell keys available.

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

*

 

1929

Triumph With mother of pearl rollers. Micro tuner on alto & tenor models. Keyed from low Bb to high G. Split or right bell keys available. As of the 1930s, only available in alto, C mel, and tenor versions.

 

 

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1929

 Oscar Adler, tenor saxophone, Gloria model, vintage German sax

Bell engraving on a Gloria model tenor  Source: allinwrist on eBay.com

The Gloria and Symphonie models were identical, had almost the same features, and even had the same model numbers. The Symphonie however, was under certain circumstances only available for export. Presumably the same was true of the Odeum, Orfeon, and Electra models, which were illustrated in an English/Spanish brochure from 1929. There is no direct reference to these model numbers in German Oscar Adler catalogues.

Oscar Adler alto saxophone, Eterna model bell engraving

Bell engraving on an Eterna model alto  Source: eBay.com

The Eterna was the only model to offer a complete range of 11 saxophones: from Eb sopranino to Eb contrabass. And while their Graslitz-based competitor, J. Keilwerth, never made any C-pitched horns, Oscar Adler did. They even included 9 different models of C bass saxophones for players to choose from.

The Takeover By The State: VEB Shuts Down Saxophone Production

As happened to other East German musical instrument companies, Oscar Adler was taken over by the State-run VEB Blechblas- und Signal-Instrumenten-Fabrik in 1959. At first VEB was a general partner, but eventually became a limited partner and controlled what the company could and could not build. Shortly thereafter, Oscar Adler was no longer allowed to build saxophones, only oboes and bassoons. Finally in 1974, Adler became entirely a VEB B&S affiliate.

The 1928 model name Sonora, was used by VEB as a model as of 1972, and as of 1974, it was affiliated with VEB B&S.

Post Unified Germany: The Company Is Reprivatized, But Sax Production Doesn’t Resume

After Germany’s reunification, Oscar Adler and Gebr. Mönnig were reprivatized, and now operate under the name Gebr. Mönnig Oscar Adler & Co. Holzblasinstrumentenbau GmbH. The company no longer makes saxophones, but sells oboes, clarinets, bassoons, and contrabassoons under the name Oscar Adler, and Oboe d’amore, English horns, and bassoons under the name Gebrüder Mönnig.

To see more Oscar Adler saxophones, check out the Oscar Adler gallery in Bassic Sax Pix.

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¹ Source: meinert-holzblasinstrumente.de

² Source: Ibid

Note: The the exception of the 2 footnotes above, the source of information for this page is from Uwe Ladwig, in der deutschen Fachzeitschrift—German music journal—SONIC sax & brass.

I would like to thank Uwe for so generously allowing me to use his research, and very much appreciate the trust he has shown by allowing me to do my own translation.

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