Aristide Cavaillé-Coll

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Aristide Cavaillé-Coll
Aristide Cavaille-Coll.jpg
Born(1811-02-04)4 February 1811
Montpellier, France
Died13 October 1899(1899-10-13) (aged 88)
Paris, France

Aristide Cavaillé-Coll (French:  [aʁistid kavaje kɔl] ; 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 and organ composing through the early 20th century. The organ reform movement sought to return organ building to a more Baroque style; but since the 1980s, Cavaillé-Coll's designs have come 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 stops such as the flûte harmonique. His most famous organs in Paris are in Basilique du Sacré-Cœur, [2] Basilique Sainte-Clotilde and Eglise de la Madeleine.

Pipe organ wind instrument that produces sound by driving pressurized air (called wind) through pipes selected via a keyboard

The pipe organ is a musical instrument that produces sound by driving pressurized air through the organ pipes selected via a keyboard. Because each pipe produces a single pitch, the pipes are provided in sets called ranks, each of which has a common timbre and volume throughout the keyboard compass. Most organs have multiple ranks of pipes of differing timbre, pitch, and volume that the player can employ singly or in combination through the use of controls called stops.

The Organ Reform Movement or Orgelbewegung was a mid-20th-century trend in pipe organ building, originating in Germany. The movement was influential in the United States in the 1930s through 1970s, and began to wane in the 1980s. It arose with early interest in historical performance and was strongly influenced by Albert Schweitzer's championing of historical instruments by Gottfried Silbermann and others, as well as by Schweitzer's declaration that the criterion for judging an organ is its fitness to perform with clarity the polyphonic Baroque music of J. S. Bach (1685–1750). Concert organist E. Power Biggs was a leading popularizer of the movement in the United States, through his many recordings and radio broadcasts. The movement ultimately went beyond the "Neo-Baroque" copying of old instruments to endorse a new philosophy of organ building, "more Neo than Baroque". The movement arose in opposition to the excesses of symphonic organ building, and eventually symphonic organs regained popularity after the reform movement brought excesses of its own.

Baroque cultural movement, starting around 1600

The Baroque is a highly ornate and often extravagant style of architecture, music, dance, painting, sculpture and other arts that flourished in Europe from the early 17th until the mid-18th century. It followed Renaissance art and Mannerism and preceded the Rococo and Neoclassical styles. It was encouraged by the Catholic Church as a means to counter the simplicity and austerity of Protestant architecture, art and music, though Lutheran Baroque art developed in parts of Europe as well.



Cavaille-Coll's grave in Montparnasse Cemetery, Paris Sepultuur Cavaille Coll.JPG
Cavaillé-Coll's grave in Montparnasse Cemetery, Paris

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.

Montpellier Prefecture and commune in Occitanie, France

Montpellier is a city near the south coast of France on the Mediterranean Sea. It is the capital of the Hérault department. It is located in the Occitanie region. In 2016, 607,896 people lived in the urban area and 281,613 in the city itself. Nearly one third of the population are students from three universities and from three higher education institutions that are outside the university framework in the city.

Symphonic organ

The symphonic organ is a style of pipe organ that flourished during the first three decades of the 20th century in town halls and other secular public venues, particularly in the United States and the United Kingdom. It is a variation of the classical pipe organ – expanded with many pipes imitative of orchestral instruments, and with capabilities for seamlessly increasing and decreasing volume. These expansions are intended to facilitate the expressive performance of Romantic music and orchestral transcriptions. The symphonic organ has seen a revival in the US, Europe and Japan, particularly since the 1980s.

UNESCO Specialised agency of the United Nations

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); is a specialized agency of the United Nations (UN) based in Paris. Its declared purpose is to contribute to peace and security by promoting international collaboration in education, sciences, and culture in order to increase universal respect for justice, the rule of law, and human rights along with fundamental freedom proclaimed in the United Nations Charter. It is the successor of the League of Nations' International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation.

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 taken over in 1898, shortly before his death, by Charles Mutin, who continued in the organ business, but by World War II the firm had almost disappeared.

Cavaillé-Coll died in Paris on 13 October 1899 and is buried in Montparnasse Cemetery.

Montparnasse Cemetery cemetery in the Montparnasse quarter of Paris, France

Montparnasse Cemetery is a cemetery in the Montparnasse quarter of Paris, part of the city's 14th arrondissement.

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.

Expression pedal

An expression pedal is an important control found on many musical instruments including organs, electronic keyboards and pedal steel guitar. The musician uses the pedal to control different aspects of the sound, commonly volume. Separate expression pedals can often be added to a guitar amplifier or effects unit and used to control many different aspects of the tone.

Voicing (music) manner in which one distributes, or spaces, notes and chords among the various instruments or simultaneous vertical placement of notes in relation to each other

In music theory, voicing refers to one of two closely related concepts:

  1. How a musician or group distributes, or spaces, notes and chords on one or more instruments
  2. The simultaneous vertical placement of notes in relation to each other; this relates to the concepts of spacing and doubling
Bassoon musical instrument

The bassoon is a woodwind instrument in the double reed family that plays music written in the bass and tenor clefs, and occasionally the treble. Appearing in its modern form in the 19th century, the bassoon figures prominently in orchestral, concert band, and chamber music literature. It is known for its distinctive tone colour, wide range, variety of character, and agility. One who plays the bassoon is called a bassoonist.

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.

Tracker action

Tracker action is a term used in reference to pipe organs and steam calliopes to indicate a mechanical linkage between keys or pedals pressed by the organist and the valve that allows air to flow into pipe(s) of the corresponding note. This is in contrast to "direct electric action" and "electro-pneumatic action", which connect the key to the valve through an electrical link or an electrically assisted pneumatic system respectively, or "tubular-pneumatic action" which utilizes a change of pressure within lead tubing which connects the key to the valve pneumatic.

The Barker lever is a pneumatic system which multiplies the force of a finger on the key of a tracker pipe organ. It employs the wind pressure of the organ to inflate small bellows called "pneumatics" to overcome the resistance of the pallets (valves) in the organ's wind-chest. This lever allowed for the development of larger, more powerful organs still responsive to the human hand. These larger organs first flourished in France, e.g., the organ produced by Cavaillé-Coll at St. Sulpice. The first Barker lever was built in the Cavaillé-Coll organ of the Basilica of Saint-Denis.

Pope Leo XIII 256th Pope of the Catholic Church

Pope Leo XIII was head of the Catholic Church from 20 February 1878 to his death. He was the oldest pope, and had the third-longest confirmed pontificate, behind that of Pius IX and John Paul II.


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. Gonzalez in 1939 and reinstalled in the Palais de Chaillot which replaced the Palais de Trocadéro, then rebuilt in 1975 by Danion-Gonzalez and relocated to the Auditorium Maurice Ravel in Lyon. Franck's Trois Pièces were premiered on the Trocadéro organ.

Marcel Dupré French organist and composer

Marcel Dupré was a French organist, composer, and pedagogue.

Musical composition aesthetic ordering and disposing of musical information

Musical composition, or simply composition, can refer to an original piece or work of music, either vocal or instrumental, the structure of a musical piece, or to the process of creating or writing a new piece of music. People who create new compositions are called composers. Composers of primarily songs are usually called songwriters; with songs, the person who writes lyrics for a song is the lyricist. In many cultures, including Western classical music, the act of composing typically includes the creation of music notation, such as a sheet music "score," which is then performed by the composer or by other instrumental musicians or singers. In popular music and traditional music, songwriting may involve the creation of a basic outline of the song, called the lead sheet, which sets out the melody, lyrics and chord progression. In classical music, orchestration is typically done by the composer, but in musical theatre and in pop music, songwriters may hire an arranger to do the orchestration. In some cases, a pop or traditional songwriter may not use written notation at all, and instead compose the song in their mind and then play, sing and/or record it from memory. In jazz and popular music, notable sound recordings by influential performers are given the weight that written or printed scores play in classical music.

César Franck Belgian-French composer, organist and music teacher

César-Auguste-Jean-Guillaume-Hubert Franck was a composer, pianist, organist, and music teacher who worked in Paris during his adult life.


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. [3] It won the DVD Documentary Award of the BBC Music Awards 2014. [4]

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

In Spain

In the United Kingdom

In the Netherlands

  • Haarlem: Philharmonie
  • Amsterdam: Augustinuskerk [9]
  • Amsterdam: Joannes en Ursulakapel Begijnhof

In Belgium

In Portugal

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

In Italy

In addition, Cavaillé-Coll designed a large but never-built pipe organ for Saint Peter's Basilica, where a 1/10 scale model is preserved. [10]

In Denmark

In Russia

Organ of the Grand Hall of the Moscow Conservatory Aristide Cavaille Coll Organ at the Great Hall of Moscow Conservatory.jpg
Organ of the Grand Hall of the Moscow Conservatory

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


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

Further reading

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  2. "Sacré-Coeur facts. History". Paris Digest. 2018. Retrieved 2019-01-03.
  3. Fraser, Will (December 2011). "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.
  4. "BBC Music Magazine Awards 2014 winners announced". BBC Music Magazine . Immediate Media Company Limited. 2014-04-08. Archived from the original on 2014-04-14. 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.
  5. oeust france. "Quel avenir pour le grand orgue de Luçon ?". Retrieved 22 October 2015.
  6. "Temple Pentemont". Organs of Paris.
  7. "L'orgue Cavaillé-Coll".
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  9. 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.
  10. Ebrecht, Ronald (2012). Cavaillé-Coll's Monumental Organ Project for Saint Peter's, Rome: Bigger Than Them All. Lanham: Lexington Books. ISBN   978-0-7391-6728-1.
  11. "Jesuskirkens orgler" [Jesus Church Organs]. Jesuskirken - Valby Sogn (in Norwegian). Archived from the original on 2014-08-29. Retrieved 2014-08-29.
  12. "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.