The First Solo Saxophone Recording Reconsidered

When considering the identity of the first saxophonist to make a phonograph recording as a soloist, numerous authors have cited record collector Jim Walsh's estimation that it was Bessie Mecklem (1875-1942). Mecklem, a student of prominent nineteenth­century virtuoso Edward A. Lefebre (1835-1911 ), recorded twelve wax cylinders at the Edison Laboratories on April 23, 1892. Recently discovered accounts, found in digitized historical newspapers and The Thomas Edison Papers' newspaper clipping files, conclusively document that Lefebre recorded for Edison, or one of its subsidiaries, sometime in early 1889, making him the first saxophone soloist to record.

The Edison Papers and the New York Public Library hold copies of United States Phonograph Company Catalogue of Standard Records, which date from 1894. The nine different selections by Lefebre listed in these catalogs can be deemed with certainty to be the first by a saxophone soloist to be commercially released. Although no surviving cylinders by Lefebre (or Mecklem) have yet been identified, these catalogs and other secondary sources have yielded valuable information about Lefebre's playing.

The repertoire chosen for these recordings represents the breadth of popular nineteenth-century genres recorded by other contemporary wind soloists in the early 1890s. They include two popular songs, a German popular song, three operatic selections, a Strauss lullaby, an Irish song, and a plantation song. Lefebre's recordings of sentimental songs and ballads took advantage of his most recognized attributes as a saxophonist: his tone quality and expression. Lefebre likely showcased his technical virtuosity by executing operatic airs with brilliant variations.



Work Title The First Solo Saxophone Recording Reconsidered
Open Access
  1. Thomas W Smialek
License In Copyright (Rights Reserved)
Work Type Article
  1. The Saxophone Symposium
Publication Date January 1, 2014
Deposited October 10, 2022




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