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Moeschinger Albert (10. 01. 1897 - 25. 09. 1985)

Moeschinger Albert

Moeschinger Albert
Albert Moeschinger-Stiftung
Schönbeinstrasse 18/20
CH-4056 Basel
Tel. +41 (0)61 267 31 24


Albert Jean Moeschinger was born the son of a merchant in Basel and grew up under difficult circumstances. In 1901, one year after the birth of his sister Emma Olara, his mother left the young family. The four-year old boy was, for the time being, left to the charge of his grandmother and later spent a year with his aunt in Geneva.
From the age of six onwards he received piano lessons from Josef Herold, a member of the Basel Symphony Orchestra; his student was talented and extremely interested. In 1904 his father married for the second time; the family moved to Basel's old town. Stepson and stepmother however, did not see eye to eye; subsequent to the cancellation of his piano lessons the eleven-year old practiced alone. Following his obligatory schooling he lived in the French-speaking part of Switzerland for one year in order to learn the French language; the attendance of the college was in his father's eyes totally unnecessary. He received multifarious encouragement from his French language teacher's, who were also good musicians. His first compositions were penned, he read profusely and made his first literary attempts.
In the Spring of 1914, at the behest of his father, Moeschinger was forced to enter into a bank clerk apprenticeship and, as inexpertly as he was there employed, his father insisted he remain. It was not until three years later, following the verification of his musical talents by Hermann Suter and, not least with thanks to the prospect of becoming répétiteur at the Berne City Theatre, was he allowed to leave the bank. In Berne Moeschinger studied piano under the tutelage of Oskar Ziegler and composition under Ernst Graf. In addition he searched for students in order to find a means of sustenance.
In 1920 he received, from the Winterthurian patron Werner Reinhart, a stipend for a three-year study abroad. Moeschinger chose Leipzig as his first port of study, where, due to the presentation of his compositions, he was immediately accepted into the master class of Paul Graener. However, he never presented the works that followed to his teacher; he learnt not at the school but in concert. With notebook in hand he hunted down rehearsals and performances and travelled, not uncommonly, to Berlin in his aim. Moeschinger spent the third year of his study abroad in Munich as a student of Walter Courvoisier, he also left this training post without a diploma.
Back in Switzerland Moeschinger earnt his money as a coffee-house musician in the Bernese Oberland, in Basel and in Berne. A short time later he was no longer satisfied with being a "musical servant" and endeavoured to teach students and concentrate on his position as a teacher at the conservatory in Berne. In 1929 he became recognised through a concert of his own work; a string quartet, a string trio and lieder, as a result his colleagues, for example Willy Burkhard with whom he conversed intensively about composition, ensured that he received an increased number of students. It was not until 1937 that he was engaged at the conservatory. He took his teaching activities extremely seriously, proof of which lies, for example, in the very extensive morphology he wrote for his students.
Moeschinger went to Saas Fee to recuperate following a very serious operation in 1942, it was his intention, already in the Spring of 1943, to begin teaching again at the conservatory after the summer holidays but come September he had still not recovered sufficiently and remained in Wallis. From now on he will and can earn his living through commissions for compositions. He lived in splendid isolation (as he ironically put it) in a small room containing a piano at the 'Hotel Du Glacier' where he missed the musical environment, concerts and societies. Often, mostly in summer, he received visits from friends and ventured on prolonged mountain tours; then he was once again alone. It was exactly this loneliness and peace of the mountainous environment that drove him to compose.
In addition Moeschinger read copiously, most particularly contemporary French authors. He also studied countless scores, not only for his own benefit but also as the corrector of the director Paul Sacher, who trusted the fabulous 'inner ear' of Moeschinger. Sacher himself repeatedly commissioned compositions. Moeschinger also kept an extensive correspondence with musicians, friends and family.
Again and again Moeschinger travelled to the world premieres of his orchestral works. In chamber musical programmes he often performed the piano part himself, an example being at the Tonkünstlerfest 1951 in Sion, where Moeschinger and Peter Mieg assisted each other in turning the pages of the score.
During this time he had an ubiquitous wish to write an opera. Following the completion of his cantata on the "Märchen von der kleinen Seejungfrau", Moeschinger searched intensively for a suitable libretto; this search however, remained unsuccessful as none of the texts found his approval.
The feeling of isolation and even displacement in rural Saas Fee became more intense. In 1953 he was awarded the art prize by his home city of Basel, this brought him much satisfaction and relief from financial difficulties. He accepted tenancy of a small and affordable apartment in St.Alban-Vorstadt in Basel but he was neither accustomed nor willing to manage his own household. In the hotel he had been sheltered from these practicalities and when his friends invited him for a long stay he was pampered and indulged as a fascinating interlocutor, even though he was a very demanding guest.
Moeschinger undertook another operation in the winter of 1955 and recovered very slowly. Vladimir Vogel recommended that he stay at the Hotel "Tamaro" in Ascona where, for the second time, a period of recuperation opened a new chapter in his life. Ascona offered him a stimulating environment with an agreeable climate and surroundings. Henceforth Moe, as he was known by his friends (not always to his amusement), ventured on many short trips to the Italian bathing resorts where he hoped to find both relief from his arthritic pains and inspiration from the landscape. He visited Torre del Lago where the birth-house of his admired Puccini was located. In 1957 Moeschinger received the compositions prize offered by the Swiss Association of Musicians.
The year 1968 brought an unexpected number of concerts, which the composer put down to the occasion of his 70th birthday the previous year. He still traveled often to performances despite his increasing blindness caused by cataracts and note-writing. Because of the closure of the "Tamaro" during the winter season it was necessary for Moeschinger to find a place to spend the Autumn of his life, this led in the following years to numerous changes of address but with no permanent result. His eye operation in Berne in 1978 was also a disappointment, the expected amelioration did not occur and, furthermore, his hearing also suffered as a result of the anaesthetic. Following a short stay in a nursing home the daughters of the painter Alfred Glaus, a friend of the family, gave him lodgings in Thun. He was awarded the music prize offered by the canton of Berne. His final musical thoughts he wrote on custom made paper.

Helene Ringgenberg

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