Aristide Cavaillé-Coll (February 4, 1811–October 13, 1899) was a French organ builder. He is by many considered the greatest organ builder of the 19th century.
Born in Montpellier, France to Dominique, one in a line of organ-builders, he showed early talent in mechanical innovation. He renewed the technique of organ building, exhibiting an outstanding fine art when designing and building his famous instruments. There is a before and an after Mr. Cavaillé-Coll. His organs are "symphonic organs", that is, they can reproduce sounds of other instruments, and combine them as well with extraordinary and monumental sound, in both volume and pitch range. The biggest expression is the Grand Orgue of the Saint-Sulpice, Paris. Featuring 101 stops and five manuals (keyboards), this magnificent instrument, totally built upon mechanical action, is a candidate to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Mr. 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 the firm's survival. His firm was acquired in 1899, after his death in Paris, by Charles Mutin. He continued in the organ business, but by World War II, the firm had almost disappeared.
Marcel Dupré stated once that "composing for an orchestra is quite different than composing for an organ... with exception of Mr. Cavaillé-Coll's symphonic organs, in that case one has to observe an extreme attention when writing for such kind of majestic instruments."
Fortunately, many of his organs remain. In particular, they can be heard at:
- Manchester Town Hall, England
- Église de la Madeleine, Paris