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     Daetwyler, Jean (24th January 1907-4th June 1994)

    He was a composer born in Basel, Switzerland as the son of a confectioner.  The family moved to Bulle in 1913 when his father got a job in Broc and after two years there Jean began to play the violin.

     

    In 1919 he began taking lessons in trombone alongside the violin and studied with Raphael Radraux.  That same year he wrote his first composition for solo violin entitled “Souvenir des Montagnes de la Gruyere”.

     

    Although wanting to concentrate completely on a career in music, in 1924 he entered a school of commerce under the insistence of his father who wanted him to have a business education.  He graduated with a diploma in 1927 and immediately entered military service where he became a trumpeter

     

    After his service was complete he entered the Paris Conservatoire to study counterpoint, composition, conducting, chamber music and Gregorian singing with his teachers including Charles Koechlin, Jean de Valois and Vincent D’Indy.  Because his family did not help finance his studies he took on a job as a musician for a silent movie theatre but had to look for other options around 1931 with the introduction of sound.

     

    After he left his job at the movie theatre he obtained the position of trombonist and violinist for the orchestra at Folies Bergeres and the Casino de Paris and in 1932 took on the job as a correspondent at La Liberte newspaper where he used the pseudonym Jean Devilliers.  He remained with the newspaper until 1936.

     

    In 1933 he returned to Switzerland for a few months and got married to Augusta Celina Folly, who he always called “Duta”.

     

    Still undertaking his studies at the Paris Conservatoire it became apparent that the school was beginning to experience financial problems and caused many of Jean’s professors to leave and form the Cesar Franck School.  Deciding to stick with the teachers he knew, he followed them and began to study there in 1935.  He received his diplomas in composition, conducting, fugue and Gregorian singing in 1937 and that same year composed his “Missa Solemnis ad Honorem et memorium Sti. Gregorii Magni”.

     

    In 1938 he held the position of the director of the Cesar Franck School Orchestra by as war was becoming more imminent he returned to Switzerland where he became the conductor of the band La Gerondine in Sierre after answering an advertisement in a music journal. The following year he as asked to compose an official march for 50th anniversary of the Music Society in Chalais and the resultant “Marignan” was the music he became recognised and remembered for much of his career even though he wrote many other compositions.

     

    In 1941 he wrote his Alpine Symphony and a year later he became the director of the Ste. Cecile mixed chorus at Ste Catherine’s parish.  1943 saw him beginning work with Radio-Lausanne and composing many works for them and in 1946 he became acquainted with Roland Muller who was a film-maker.  After teaming up with him and the lyricist/librettist Aloys Theytaz, Jean composed many of the pieces for the films which depicted life in Sierre.

     

    In 1947 he was recognised for his music when he was a winner at the Rhodanian Music Awards and he then decided to establish the Rhone en Valeis music festival and La Chanson du Rhone which he toured with and wrote more then 300 songs for with his friend Leon Monnier.  Just two years later in 1949 he founded the Sion Conservatory of Music.

     

    Going into the 1950s he arranged “Tiger Rag” which was performed by La Gerondine at the Festival of Saxon in 1952 and with La Gerondine going on to receive honours in the National Music Festival in 1953 for their performance of Jean’s transcription of Mussorgsky’s “One Night on Bald Mountain”.

     

    Having continued his work with Roland Muller they received the “best colour movie” award for their Terre Valaisanne at the 1956 Cannes Film Festival.  A year later they won the “best documentary” award for their White Horizons and in 1960 their movie The Barrier won the Grand Prix Award and President of the Republic Award. 

     

    Busy as always during the 1960s he was the founder of the Zacheos in 1962, which concentrates on the folklore of Valais, and in 1963 he wrote “Cantata” which was used for the centenary of the Red Cross organisation. 

     

    When 1970 came along he was requested to write a Concerto for Alphorn by the horn player Jozsef Molnar, this led to Jean writing in the region of 20 other works for the alpenhorn.  He also wrote his “Mass of Valais” for mixed and children’s chorus which was dedicated to the President’s son at Ste. Cecile and in 1972 composed his “Requiem pour le Temps Atomiques” in remembrance of WWII after visiting Auschwitz.  Awarded for his contribution to his local area he was awarded the title Bourgeois d’honneur of Sierre in 1973.

     

    On his 70th birthday in 1977 there were many testimonials written about him and later in the year he was commissioned to write a concert for Radio Romande followed by International Switzerlan Radio asking him to write the Christmas play Noel Valaisan.  In 1978 he went to the USA and found success there when Eugene Ormandy conducted the Philadelphia Orchestra for his “Concerto for Alphorn”. On his return to Switzerland he retired after 40 years as the director of La Gerondine” and two years after that in 1981 he retired after 39 years of directorship at Ste Cecile.

     

    He was honoured several times again with the Bourgeois d’honneur of Heremence and in 1991 Sierre renamed the steps leading up to the Villa Beau-Soleil, which had been his home since 1942, the “Escaliers Jean Daetwyler”.

     

    In 1992 he conducted Chanson du Rhone for the last time after having led it for 45 years.  There was later a video of filmed portraits of him.

     

    On the 29th May 1994 he suffered a cerebral haemorrhage and was taken to the hospital in Sierre.  He remained unconscious and passed away on the 4th June when he was 87 years old.  Five years after his death Jean Daetwyler Gallery was opened in his honour.

     

    Chanson du Rhone recordings

    Noel Valaisan: The Angels/The Kings/The Bells (Jean Daetwyler)

    Musica Helvetica CD 69.2 (CD: Christmas in Switzerland)

    Conductor - Jean Daetwyler

     

     

    Sources:

    1. http://www.jeandaetwyler.ch/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=18&Itemid=70&lang=en
    2. http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean_Daetwyler
    3. http://www.naxos.com/person/Jean_Daetwyler/22581.htm
    4. http://www.cduniverse.com/classical.asp?composer=Jean+Daetwyler
    5. http://www.answers.com/topic/jean-daetwyler-classical-album
    6. http://www.actoractressgallery.com/music_review_42/jean_daetwyler.html

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     



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