MUTIN Charles (1861-1931)

Successor to Mr. Cavaillé-Coll.

Charles Mutin was born on April 7 1861 at St. Julien-sur-Suran (Jura) His mother was twenty-five years younger than his father, Claude-François, a debt-ridden innkeeper. When he died Charles was barely three years old and his older sister, Ernestine was seven. The second child, Elisabeth, who was five, was left in the care of their mother, Ernestine Ligier, as were her brother and sister. Financial hardship and the War of 1870 drove the luckless family towards Paris. The Third Republic was affected for a time by. budgetary restraints that increased markedly when the Ordre Moral gave way to a Republic that was less favourable to the Church. There would be no more of the ever-increasing symbolic measures of the Second Empire who sought to unite Church and Empire in a marriage of reason. The organ sector had been one of its beneficiaries, but, little by little, an unfavourable policy towards the Church developed. This about-face affected the remuneration of the main contractors The situation had a direct effect on the fate of the diocesan buildings. Orders thinned out, even though the company was covering several, not inconsiderable project. The Cavaillé-Coll Company cashier emphasised this:

"Our showroom is overcrowded with finished instruments to be sold. Therefore, there is no longer any need to do advance work, it would be madness. And so? you ask me. We will certainly put the personnel, which is, moreover, much reduced, out of work. There is no business and no work in the workshops".

In 1873, Charles Mutin was a pupil at the Petit Séminaire, in Meaux where he won second prize for excellence, translation into Latin, and diligence and first prize for translation from Latin to French, which won him a certificate of merit. Although his mother was very religious, she didn't make a priest of him, but nonetheless someone who worked in the service of the Church. In 1875, she put him into apprenticeship with Cavaillé-Coll at the avenue du Maine, where he apprenticed under Joseph Koenig (1846-1926), one of the Company's voicers, working on the great organ in the Abbaye-aux-hommes in Caen.

Koenig married Charles' sister Marie Ernestine Josephine Elisabeth Monique Mutin, on May 20 1882 shortly before Mutin left to do his military service in the 117th Infantry Regiment stationed at Argentan. In Normandy, Staff Sergeant Mutin met Eugénie Crespin, a "gloriette normande", the only daughter of a building contractor and the rich heiress of her uncle and father who was warden of Notre-Dame-de-Guilbray in Falaise, and Commander of the fire brigade. They were married on January 23 1888 then settled temporarily in the rue du Pot d'Etain, in the parish. Ten years later, he bought the manufacture avenue du Maine. It was Charles Mutin who paid homage Aristide Cavaillé-Coll at his graveside.

At the time of the Paris World Fair in 1900, he built a great organ for the Moscow Conservatory.

Auguste Convers succeeded Mutin in 1924 and displeased his clients with mass-produced instruments whose electric note transmission system was unreliable. He was dismissed in 1928 on the eve of the world financial crisis in 1929. A limited liability company took over the projects underway and was relatively successful. Auguste Convers described the 135 predominating musical climate in France in the organ milieu with these revealing words: "CAVAILLE-COLL was a mediocre musician and didn't play at all and was therefore not capable of defending himself against the influence of the masters of his time. His first instruments, particularly the one in Saint-Denis, made entirely independently, were absolutely brilliant, whereas, later, under the influence of Franck and Widor, all the mutation stops that were not needed for playing the works of these two composers, were eliminated. It was Alexandre Guilmant who, much later, wanted to reinstate the stops in the instruments that had been removed. I say this in excuse for organ builders who are often accused of things that have been imposed on them. When, in 1924, I started to add numerous mutation stops to the CAVAILLE-COLL Company's instruments, I had to put up a fierce fight against the old organists who found them completely superfluous and only saw them as a way for the manufacturer to save because of the lower cost of the pipes. One Parisian choirmaster, who is still alive, said to me in front of a new organ we were finishing in my workshops, "This Nazard and that Tierce are just stops for the organ builder, for they don't cost much." That was all significance they accorded it. None of this would be very important if, in the final analysis, the organ builder hadn't been made responsible and, after many years, we forget that Widor had imposed a style and instead simply say that Cavaillé-Coll didn't know how to make organs. We therefore have to accept this fact or join battle with the majority of organists".

Charles Mutin died on May 29 1931, consumed by an unremitting illness. In the middle of the War, the Cavaillé-Coll factory died a slow death after having merged with the Pleyel Company.