Aristide Cavalli was born in Oneglia in 1856. As a young boy he learned the basics of woodworking from eccentric carpenter and luthier Giuseppe Bresciani. Bresciani admired Cavalli’s remarkable innate understanding of the proportions and techniques of the violin trade, and encouraged him to pursue a career as a luthier. In 1876, Cavalli opened a book store in Cremona. His talent as an entrepreneur soon brought him a loyal clientele. As his business grew, he started selling sheet music and other music-related content. In 1890, he began publishing his own music magazine, which brought a lot of business to his shop from around Italy. Demand for Cavalli’s expertise grew, and he started trading and repairing instruments for wealthy musicians and collectors.
In 1895, Cavalli opened a small factory in a former theater which ultimately became the Claudio Monteverdi workshop. He began constructing his own instruments in the cremonese style. Cavalli noticed a demand from students and early professional players who needed economical violins of excellent quality, and so he focused industrializing the process of building an instrument to keep up with demand. He is often credited as the first luthier to industrialize the Cremonese tradition. Each instrument was still made by hand, but workers specialized in different aspects of the instrument to speed up the process. Cavalli’s son Lelio helped him officially open the Claudio Monteverdi workshop around 1925.
Aside from being an excellent businessman, Cavalli made many beautiful violins, guitars, and mandolins throughout his career. He often finished his instruments with a dark red varnish. He put a lot of effort into finding fine wood and collaborating with his employees to improve their workshop method. When Cavalli died in 1931, he left his business to his sons, Lelio and Pietro.