The Organ

Jesse Eschbach: Aristide Cavaillé-Coll – a Compendium of Known Stop Lists

Jesse Eschbach: Aristide Cavaillé-Coll – a Compendium of Known Stop Lists
Paderborn: Verlag Peter Ewers
ISBN 3-928243-05-5

A book of 803 pages containing 510 specifications might seem to be ideal reading for armchair organ enthusiasts but the purpose of this book, the first of three volumes dealing with the organs of Aristide Cavaillé-Coll, is altogether more serious. The underlying proposition of the series is that reliable analysis and studies of his work can only be based on accurate knowledge of what his organs actually contained when they were finished. Later volumes will document the appearance and details of the structure and mechanism of the various organs. Jesse Eschbach, the author of the present volume, is Professor of Organ and Chair of Keyboard Studies at the University of North Texas at Denton. He studied the organ with Marie Claire Alain and Marie Madeleine Duruflé in Paris and is well known as a Cavaillé-Coll scholar both in the United States and France.

The compilation of the stop lists proved to be a considerable undertaking that took more that six years to complete and involved the search for a wide range of sources both contemporary and modern. The only available part of the archives of the Cavaillé-Coll firm, that known as the Lapresté collection is now in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, but there is little significant information later than 1859. In the course of his researches Eschbach made a substantial number of visits to organs, mostly in France, to inspect both the organs and local records. Cavaillé-Coll exported organs to several countries around the world, including Britain, and most of these have been located and documented using local experts to provide the detail. The organs said to have been exported to the USA are a fascinating exception, none of which have been located with any certainty. These organs are the subject of an appendix written by Agnes Armstrong.The book also includes a transcript of the little known and hitherto unpublished personal note book used by Cavaillé-Coll to record, amongst much other information, the details of the many sound boards constructed for the various organs, a most valuable technical resource that is analysed in detail in an appendix.

The general text is given in English, French and German. The stop lists, obviously given in the original French, are organised into three chapters which, very broadly, comprise organs that exist, organs that do not now exist in any recognisable form, and a group of eight organs that were planned but never built. Each stop list is accompanied by often extensive notes in English detailing the various sources used. The book essentially summarises the state of research up to the end of 2002 and there is a mechanism for submitting additions and corrections for incorporation into future editions through the publisher.This book is essentially a work of reference written primarily for the specialist researcher on the Cavaillé-Coll organ and, as such, it is highly recommended.