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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000072.txt from 2004/12

From: "dnleeson" <>
Subj: [kl] Rascher biography
Date: Sat, 4 Dec 2004 18:05:31 -0500

From a composite of several biographies on the web, a brief bio
of Rascher is attached and not a single word is said about his
leaving Germany in 1939. Perhaps it was because of his penchant
for the saxophone which may have been considered a decadent
and/or undesireable instrument due to its use in jazz, which was
considered decadent music.

My involvement with Rascher was when he was a soloist with a band
of which I was a member. When I introduced myself to him, has
asked if I were the son of Cecil Leeson, at that time a first
class classical saxophone player. I told him that I had no
knowledge of any relationship and doubted if one existed. Cecil
Leeson was of Scotch/Irish/English ancestry.

Once I got invited to give a talk somewhere (I don't remember
where) and was introduced as the "famous saxophonist Cecil
Leeson." They were very impressed that a saxophone player could
give a coherent talk about Mozart. As long as they paid me, I
didn't care who they thought I was, but since the contract had my
right name in it, I never figured out how the mix up happened.


Born 15 May, 1907, in Elberfeld (now Wuppertal), Sigurd Manfred
Rascher was exactly one year older than Lars-Erik Larsson (b. 15
May 1908). In the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians,
Rascher is described as a Scandinavian saxophonist of German
birth. In the Swedish encyclopedia Sohlmans Musiklexikon Rascher
is described as an American saxophonist, born in Germany.
Consulting the New Grove Dictionary of American Music, Rascher is
described as a German born saxophonist. Nicolas Slonimsky's
edition of Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, simply
says that Rascher is a German-American saxophone virtuoso. In
Slonimsky's Music Since 1900, Rascher is identified as a Danish
saxophone virtuoso. Obviously, Rascher background and identity
have caused ambiguity among scholars.

After matriculating in 1930 at the Sturttgart Musikhochschule, as
a clarinetist, Rascher decided to devote his life to the
saxophone. He thaught saxophone in elementary schools and played
in concert bands, before being appointed to teach the saxophone
at the Royal Danish Conservatory, 1933-1938, and at the
Conservatory in Malmö, Sweden , 1934-1938. After meeting with
Larsson at the ISCM festival in Florence, 1934, Rascher became a
regular member among the musicians and composers in Larsson's
home town of Åkarp, Sweden. Another significant relationship was
the family Welander, where Larsson and Rascher frequently met
with Waldemar and Svea Welander. Waldemar (1899-1984) and Svea
(1898-1986) were both composers. Waldemar's Concertino för
saxofon och Stråkorkester (1966) was dedicated to Rascher. With
Rascher's marriage to Ann-Marie Wigån from Tranås, Sweden further
became a natural home for Sigurd Rascher. The marriage was a
surprise to the people of TranÅs. Ann-Marie was the daughter of
Wilhelm Wigån, a well established manufacture of fur coats. At
the time, it was unusual for a daughter of a well established
family to marry a little known musician like Rascher, who did not
have a cent in his pocket. Today, among people who grew up in
Tranås during the 1930's, Ann-Marie Wigen is remembered as the
person who... "took off and married some strange person. But home
in Larsson's hometown Åkarp Mr. and Mrs. Rascher found
long-lasting friendship. There were many memorable evenings when
Larsson, Rascher and Waldemar and Svea Welander enjoyed each
other's company in Åkarp.

In the late 1930's Rascher moved to the United States, were he
made his American dåbut in 1939 with the Boston Symphony
Orchestra. Rascher appeared the same year as soloist with the New
York Philharmonic Orchestra. Rascher was the first saxophonist to
appear as a saxophone soloist in a subscription concert given by
either orchestra. Performing with another 250 orchestras around
the world since then, Rascher achieved a world wide reputation.
Composers such as Jacques Ibert, Paul Hindemith and Darius
Milhaud, have dedicated compositions to him. Rascher has recorded
works by American composers such as Brandt, Creston and Heiden.
Among Swedish composers, other than Larsson, Erland von Koch's
works appear with dedications to Rascher. Compositions by Koch,
such as Saxophon Concerto (1958), dedicated to Rascher, Concerto
Piccolo (1962) and Monolog nr. 4 (1975), both dedicated to
Rascher and his daughter Carina, have naturally amplified the
development of saxophone playing and repertoire in Sweden. These
pieces all generated from Larsson and Rascher's collaboration in

After emigrating to the United States in 1938, Rascher taught at
various schools including the Manhattan School of Music, 1940,
the University of Michigan, 1954, the Eastman School of music,
1959-65 and Union College, NY., 1968-72. Internationally known as
well is the Rascher Saxophone Quartet, which Rascher founded in
1969, together with his daughter Carina and his students Bruce
Wienberger and Linda Bangs. The quartet has toured intensively
performing works dedicated to their ensemble. Miniatyrer för
saxofonkvartett, (1970), Saxofonia - Concerto for Saxophone
Quartet and Wind Orchestra, (1976), Cantilena e vivo for
Saxophone Quartet, (1978), all composed by Erland von Koch, were
dedicated to the Rascher Saxophone Quartet. The quartet has also
performed early chamber music transcribed by Rascher. Known for
his technical excellence, and control of the altissimo register,
Rascher has published saxophone methods, including Top tones for
the Saxophone (1941, 3rd ed. 1977) and 158 Exercises for
Saxophone (1935, 2nd. ed. 1968).

Composers other than Larsson, such as Erland von Koch, have also
given Rascher opportunities for displaying his skills in the
altissimo register. A recording review of Koch's
Saxophon-konzert, appearing in the Saxophone Journal, 1988 gives
good criticism concerning Rascher's performance of such

Dan Leeson

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