Raffaele d’Alessandro was born in 1911 in St. Gallen, Switzerland. His father was an Italian immigrant, and his mother came from Graubünden, Switzerland. His musical talent manifested itself early, but was not supported by his parents. Nevertheless, from 1924 he took piano and organ lessons from Victor Schlatter. As his parents expected him to pursue a mercantile education he was not able to fulfill his musical ambitions.
After the death of his father, from 1932 d’Alessandro studied composition with Paul Müller and Willi Schuh in Zurich.
With the support of a Dutch benefactor, d’Alessandro was able to continue his studies in Paris, beginning in 1934, where he received instruction in composition with Nadia Boulanger and in organ with Marcel Dupré. He also took piano lessons from Paul Roës (a proponent of the Liszt / Busoni lineage), and made the acquaintance of the organists Vierne and Tournemire, both of whom he admired.
In 1940 Raffaele d’Alessandro returned to Switzerland, moving to Lausanne. Next to his work as a practicing musician he devoted himself to composition. He gave many organ and piano concerts, in Switzerland and in various European countries. In this period of his life he composed his most significant works that were performed in Switzerland, Germany, France, Belgium, Holland, England, and the USA. His œuvre comprises 164 works, including stage works, film music, vocal music, orchestral works, and chamber music.
D’Alessandro died impoverished in Lausanne on 17 March 1959, his 48th birthday.