Raffaele d'Alessandro was born the son of an Italian immigrant father and a Grisonian mother in St. Gallen. His higher-than-average musical aptitude was apparent early on but was never encouraged by his parents. He began improvising on the piano at the age of six and took violin lessons at the age of seven.
"I was interested in composition even when I still had a poignant soprano voice (however, in favour of my good name and for the good of music history my compositional precipitations from those days have been well and truly destroyed.)"
He attended the primary and secondary schools in St. Gallen.
Raffaele discontinued his violin lessons and commenced with piano and organ lessons under the tutelage of Victor Schlatter in 1924. He composed chiefly vocal works and performed various concerts in his home-town as a pianist or organist. His wish to dedicate himself to the study of music found little support from his parents. He began as a trainee salesman in the coal industry. Following the death of his father in 1931 Raffaele ceased his traineeship. A friend of his mothers, the Zürich-born organist Ida Zürcher, bore the expenses of his musical studies. He relocated to Zurich in 1932. His theory teachers were Paul Müller and Willy Schuh, he was however very autodidactical when it came to learning. He received his diploma for the piano and organ in 1933.
He became acquainted with the Dutch countess Bylandt-Rechteren who paid for the continuation of his education in Paris from 1934 until 1937. He remained in Paris from 1934 until 1940 where he studied under the tutelage of Marcel Dupré (organ), Paul Roës (piano) and Nadia Boulanger (counterpoint). The Second World War broke out, the Dutch sponsor cancelled her financial support and in March 1940 Raffaele felt forced to leave paris.
Raffaele d'Alessandro relocated to Lausanne. He dedicated much of his time to his compositional work and gave numerous piano and organ concerts, not only in his homeland but also in various European countries. His most important works were created during this phase of his life and were performed in Germany, France, Belgium, Holland, England and the United States.
In 1950 he decided to give up composition in favour of playing the organ. As he now only lived from concerts and commissions for compositions he often found himself in financial difficulty. Raffaele d'Alessandro died impoverished on the day of his birth in 1959 as a result of internal bleeding due to the rupture of his aorta.
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