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Aristide Cavaillé-Coll

Aristide Cavaillé-Coll
Born (1811-01-04)4 January 1811
Montpellier, France
Died 13 October 1899(1899-10-13) (aged 88)
Paris, France

Aristide Cavaillé-Coll (Template:IPA-fr; 4 February 1811 – 13 October 1899), was a French organ builder. He has the reputation of being the most distinguished organ builder of the 19th century.[1] He pioneered innovations in the art and science of organ building that permeated throughout the profession and influenced the course of organ building through the early twentieth century. The organ reform movement sought to return organ building to a more Baroque style, but in the last few decades of the twentieth century Cavaillé-Coll's designs came back into fashion. After Cavaillé-Coll's death, Charles Mutin maintained the business into the 20th century. Cavaillé-Coll was the author of many scientific journal articles and books on the organ in which he published the results of his researches and experiments. He was the inventor of several organ sounds/ranks/stops such as the flûte harmonique.


Born in Montpellier, France, to Dominique, one in a line of organ builders, he showed early talent in mechanical innovation. He exhibited an outstanding fine art when designing and building his famous instruments. There is a before and an after Cavaillé-Coll. His organs are "symphonic organs": that is, they can reproduce the sounds of other instruments and combine them as well. His largest and greatest organ is in Saint-Sulpice, Paris. Featuring 100 stops and five manuals, this magnificent instrument, which unlike many others remains practically unaltered, is a candidate to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Cavaillé-Coll was also well known for his financial problems. The art of his handcrafted instruments, unparalleled at that time, was not enough to ensure his firm's survival. It was inherited in 1898, shortly before his death in Paris, by Charles Mutin. He continued in the organ business, but by World War II the firm had almost disappeared.

Organ building innovations

Cavaillé-Coll is responsible for many innovations that revolutionized organ building, performance and composition. Instead of the Positif, Cavaillé-Coll placed the Grand-Chœur manual as the lowest manual, and included couplers that allowed the entire tonal resources of the organ to be played from the Grand-Chœur. He refined the English swell box by devising a spring-loaded (later balanced) pedal with which the organist could operate the swell shutters, thus increasing the organ's potential for expression. He adjusted pipemaking and voicing techniques, thus creating a whole family of stops imitating orchestral instruments such as the bassoon, the oboe and the english horn. He popularized the harmonic flute stop, which, together with the montre, the gambe and the bourdon, formed the fonds (foundations) of the organ. He introduced divided windchests which were controlled by ventils. These allowed the use of higher wind pressures and for each manual's anches (reed stops) to be added or subtracted as a group by means of a pedal. Higher wind pressures allowed the organ to include many more stops of 8' (unison) pitch in every division, so complete fonds as well as reed choruses could be placed in every division, designed to be superimposed on top of one another. Sometimes he placed the treble part of the compass on a higher pressure than the bass, to emphasize melody lines and counteract the natural tendency of small pipes (especially reeds) to be softer.

For a mechanical tracker action and its couplers to operate under these higher wind pressures, pneumatic assistance provided by the Barker lever was required, which Cavaillé-Coll included in his larger instruments. This device made it possible to couple all the manuals together and play on the full organ without expending a great deal of effort. He also invented an ingenious pneumatic combination action system for his five-manual organ at Église Saint-Sulpice, Paris. All these innovations allowed a seamless crescendo from pianissimo all the way to fortissimo, something never before possible on the organ. His organ at the Basilique Ste-Clotilde, Paris (proclaimed a basilica by Pope Leo XIII in 1897) was one of the first to be built with several of these new features. Consequently, it influenced César Franck, who was the titular organist there. The organ works of Franck have inspired generations of organist-composers who came after him.


Marcel Dupré stated once that "composing for an orchestra is quite different from composing for an organ... with exception of Master Cavaillé-Coll's symphonic organs: in that case one has to observe an extreme attention when writing for such kind of majestic instruments." Almost a century beforehand, César Franck had ecstatically said of the rather modest Cavaillé-Coll instrument at l'Eglise St.-Jean-St.-François in Paris with words that summed up everything the builder was trying to do: "Mon nouvel orgue ? C'est un orchestre !" ("My new organ? It's an orchestra!"). Franck later became organist of a much larger Cavaillé-Coll organ at Ste. Clotilde in Paris. In 1878 Franck was featured recitalist on the four-manual Cavaillé-Coll organ at the Palais du Trocadéro in the Trocadéro area of Paris; this organ was subsequently rebuilt by V. & F. Gonzales in 1939 and reinstalled in the Palais de Chaillot which replaced the Palais de Trocadéro to Palais, then rebuilt in 1975 by Danion-Gonzales and relocated to the Auditorium Maurice Ravel in Lyon. Franck's Trois Pièces were premiered on the Trocadéro organ.


A documentary film titled The Genius of Cavaillé-Coll was released in 2012 by Fugue State Films to mark both the 200th anniversary of Cavaillé-Coll's birth in 2011 and the 150th anniversary of his organ at St Sulpice.[2] It won the DVD Documentary Award of the BBC Music Awards 2014.[3]

Existing Cavaillé-Coll organs

For a complete list of all organs by Cavaillé-Coll, see: List of Organs by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll (de)

In Europe

In France

File:Grandes-Orgues, Notre-Dame de Paris.jpg
Grandes Orgues in Notre Dame de Paris
File:Normandie Seine Rouen19 tango7174.jpg
Church of Saint Ouen, Rouen

The organ of St. Ouen de Rouen is believed to be completely unmodified in any way (save for normal maintenance) since its completion, and is frequently recorded as an example of "pure" Cavaillé-Coll sound.

In Spain

In the United Kingdom

In the Netherlands

  • Haarlem: Philharmonie
  • Amsterdam: Augustinuskerk [6]
  • Amsterdam: Joannes en Ursulakapel Begijnhof

In Belgium

In Portugal

  • Lisbon, Portugal: Igreja de São Luís dos Franceses
  • Lisbon, Portugal: Igreja de São Mamede - offered by the Dukes of Palmela in 1956

In Italy

In Denmark

In Russia

In Latin America

In Venezuela

  • Caracas: Iglesia de la Parroquia San Francisco. Used for regular service.
  • Caracas: Iglesia de la Parroquia Altagracia (Inoperative)
  • Caracas: Iglesia de la Parroquia Santa Teresa. Used for regular service.
  • Caracas: Iglesia de la Parroquia San José (In a delicate situation)
  • Caracas: Parroquia La Encarnación del Valle. After several decades of silence, it's been played regularly since in 2011.
  • Los Teques: Catedral (Inoperative)

In Brazil

  • São Paulo - SP: Igreja de São José do Ipiranga (1863)
  • São Paulo - SP: Igreja do Senhor Bom Jesus do Brás (1875)
  • Rio de Janeiro - RJ: Capela da Santa Casa (1882)
  • Itu - SP: Igreja Matriz Nossa Senhora da Candelária (1882)
  • Belém - PA: Catedral da Sé (1882)
  • Campinas - SP: Catedral Metropolitana (1883)
  • Salvador - BA: Igreja da Ordem Terceira do Carmo (1888)
  • Lorena - SP: Catedral Nossa Senhora da Piedade (1889)
  • Campo Largo - PR: Igreja Matriz de Nossa Senhora da Piedade (1892)
  • Jundiaí - SP: Catedral de Nossa Senhora do Desterro (1895)
  • Rio de Janeiro - RJ: Igreja Nossa Senhora do Carmo da Lapa (1898)
  • Rio de Janeiro - RJ: Capela do Colégio Sion do Cosme Velhos (Mutin)
  • Rio de Janeiro - RJ: Igreja de Nossa Senhora de Bonsucesso (Mutin)

In Mexico

  • Mazatlán, Mexico: Catedral Basílica de la Inmaculada Concepción

In Chile

  • Valparaíso, Chile: Iglesia de los Sagrados Corazones (French Fathers Church) (1872)

In Argentina

  • Lujan, Basilica de Lujan.
  • Basílica del Santísimo Sacramento (1912) Bs As
  • Capilla del Colegio "La Salle" (1926)
  • Iglesia de San Juan Bautista (ca. 1920)
  • Basílica del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús (ca. 1906)
  • Basílica de San Nicolás de Bari (órgano principal) (fecha incierta de construcción)
  • Basílica de San Nicolás de Bari (órgano de la cripta)
  • Capilla de la "Casa de la empleada"
  • Parroquia de "Nuestra Señora del Valle"
  • Parroquia de "San Martín de Tours" (ca. 1910)
  • Parroquia de "San Cristobal"
  • Catedral de San Isidro (1906)
  • Parroquia de "Nuestra Señora de Aránzazu" (San Fernando) (1907)
  • Parroquia de "San Francisco Solano" (Bella Vista) (1906)

In Japan

  • Fuji, Japan: Haus Sonnenschein[8]


Cavaillé-Coll's name was given to an asteroid: 5184 Cavaillé-Coll.

Further reading

  • Bicknell, Stephen. Cavaillé-Coll's Four Fonds
  • Cavaillé-Coll, Cécile (1929). Aristide Cavaillé-Coll: Ses Origines, Sa Vie, Ses Oeuvres. Paris: Fischbacher.
  • Douglass, Fenner (1999). Cavaillé-Coll and the French Romantic Tradition. New Haven: Yale University Press.
  • Huybens, Giblert (1985). Cavaillé-Coll: Liste des travaux exécutés/Werkverzeichnis. Lauffen/Neckar: Orgelbau-Fachverlag Rensch. ISBN 3-921848-12-1.


  1. ^ Snyder, Kerala J. (August 2002). "Aristide Cavaillé-Coll: Master of Masters". The Organ as A Mirror of Its Time. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195144154. Retrieved November 11, 2014. 
  2. ^ Fraser, Will (2011-12). "Recording the organs of Cavaillé-Coll". The Organists' Review: 14–21. 2011 is the 200th anniversary of Aristide Cavaillé-Coll’s birth. 2012 is the 150th anniversary of the completion of his organ at St such, we decided to make a documentary about him to mark the anniversaries of 2011 and 2012.  Check date values in: |date= (help);
  3. ^ "BBC Music Magazine Awards 2014 winners announced". BBC Music Magazine (Immediate Media Company Limited). 2014-04-08. Archived from the original on 2147-04-14. Retrieved 2014-08-29. ...The Genius of Cavaillé-Coll, an epic exploration of the legendary French organ builder, won the DVD Documentary Award...announced today at a ceremony that took place at Kings Place in London.  Check date values in: |archivedate= (help)
  4. ^ "Temple Pentemont". Organs of Paris. 
  5. ^ "Amis de l'Orgue Cavaillé-Coll de Saint-Maurice de Bécon" [Friends of the Cavaillé-Coll Organ of Saint-Maurice de Bécon] (in French). Archived from the original on 2014-05-17. Retrieved 2014-08-29. 
  6. ^ Verburg, Mel. "Amsterdam, Parochieel Centrum Sint Augustinus / Verzorgingscentrum 'Nieuw Vredenburg' (Postjesweg)" [Amsterdam, parochial center of Saint Augustine]. Orgelsite (in Dutch). Archived from the original on 2014-03-13. Retrieved 2014-08-29. 
  7. ^ "Jesuskirkens orgler" [Jesus Church Organs]. Jesuskirken - Valby Sogn (in Norwegian). Archived from the original on 2014-08-29. Retrieved 2014-08-29. 
  8. ^ "Pipe Organ at Haus Sonnnenchein. 歴史あるパイプオルガン" [History of the Pipe Organ at Haus Sonnnenchein] (in Japanese). Archived from the original on 2012-03-08. Retrieved 2014-08-29. 

External links

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