Bert Kaempfert on a Historic Swiss Hiestand Farm

If you were listening to popular music in the 1960s-1970s, you may not remember his name, but you will remember his music–Bert Kaempfert.  Mr. Kaempfert was not one of our Hiestand relatives, but at the height of his success and fame, he was living and composing music on a Swiss farm that our ancestors cleared and claimed 500+ years earlier.

Take a look at this Schönau article (link below) to understand the significance of this Bert Kaempfert story.

The Home of Bert Kaempfert on the Original 1450s Swiss Hiestand Farm - Photo by Adrian Scherrer

On June 19, 2023, our Hiestand-Haston tour group visited a farm on a ridge high above Lake Hütten (Hüttnersee), south of Lake Zürich in Canton Zürich, Switzerland.  The farm is known as Hinter Schönau, meaning the rear farm in a remote nook (Schönau) of Canton Zürich.  We were warmly greeted by the couple who currently live and farm on the very spot where our Hiestand ancestors lived nearly 600 years ago.  In fact, our Hiestand ancestors were connected with the first known (May 15, 1453) mention of the Schönau.  Hiestands were likely the ones who cleared the Schönau by controlled burning in the first half of the 1400s.  Sometime after the Anabaptist (Mennonite) movement started (1525) and took hold along the southwest shore of Lake Zürich, the rear (Hinter) Schönau became a place of refuge for Anabaptists, including some Hiestands who were living there.  

We were surprised when the Schönau farming couple informed us that the famous Bert Kaempfert had owned the farm, lived there from 1969 until he died in 1980, and composed music on that remote farm that overlooks scenic Lake Zürich.

The following material is from an October 2023 article by Adrian Scherrer, a Swiss historian.

In the summer of 1966, Kaempfert moved from Germany to Canton Zug in Switzerland for a more tax-friendly residence.  From there he came across a property above Hütten (Canton Zürich) that seemed ideal as a retreat. Next to a farm on Schönau was a weekend and vacation home that had been built in 1961 and was for sale.  In 1969, he acquired the entire farm including the vacation home.  He had the latter extensively renovated and extended.  His primary residence remained in the canton of Zug for tax reasons.  But after the conversion, he mainly lived and worked in the house at the rear of Schönau.  He leased out the farm. “In the solitude of the mountains was where he had the best ideas.”1 In reality, however, his house was a spacious property with several guest rooms, a large well-kept garden, and a terrace that offered a fantastic view over the whole of Lake Zürich.  To achieve this he had part of the plateau on which the house stood removed. He set himself with his grand piano and a sound studio and prepared his recordings together with Herbert Rehbein.  He traveled to Hamburg twice a year to record the new compositions.

Bert Kaempfert created a retreat for himself in Hütten.  But he certainly sought contact with the local population.   Every now and then he invited guests from the village.  And he also liked to entertain in the Hüttner inns.  Source: Jahrbuch der Stadt Waedenswil 2023

1Agency text in numerous newspapers on June 30, 1980.

Bert Kaempfert - The Arranger and Conductor


Bert Kaempfert (born Berthold Heinrich Kämpfert; 16 October 1923 – 21 June 1980) was a German orchestra leader, multi-instrumentalist, music producer, arranger, and composer. He made easy listening and jazz-oriented records and wrote the music for a number of well-known songs, including “Strangers in the Night”, “Danke Schoen” and “Moon Over Naples”.

Kaempfert was born in Hamburg, Germany, where he received his lifelong nickname, Fips, and studied at the local school of music. A multi-instrumentalist, he was hired by Hans Busch to play with his orchestra, before serving as a bandsman in the German Navy during World War II. He later formed his own big band and toured with them, following that by working as an arranger and producer, making many hit records.

In his capacity as a record producer, Kaempfert played a part in the rise of the Beatles. In 1961, he hired the Beatles to back Tony Sheridan on an album called My Bonnie. Sheridan had been performing in Hamburg and needed to recruit a band to play behind him on the proposed tracks. Kaempfert auditioned and signed the Beatles [See below]. -Wikipedia

On the Death of Bert Kaempfert: A Life Full of Music

Wonderland at Night”, “Strangers In The Night”, “Thank You” and “Spanish Eyes” are just a few titles that have made Kaempfert, who has lived in Zug for 14 years, world-famous. In recent years he has enjoyed great success with his dreamy music, especially in the USA.

Bert Kaempfert music has been an unmistakable, typical trademark for many years. Dominant bass figures, an imperceptible beat, gentle trumpets, a unique mix of strings and voices – that’s how millions know and like him. A man of quiet tones who didn’t need noisy mountains of amplifiers for his concerts. With his music he shaped a style that went around the world. Although he became world-famous through super hits like “Spanish Eyes” and “Strangers In The Night,” he didn’t make many comments about himself and his global successes. For years he lived in seclusion, hidden from the public. “It’s enough if you know my melodies,” said “Fips” – as his friends called him. Only recently has he been able to persuade himself to go on tour and show his audience in front of the television camera.

When Bert Kaempfert composed and arranged (he made at least two long-playing records every year) he retreated to a small chalet on a mountain farm outside Zug. “The best melodies come to me in the solitude of the mountains,” he said. As a native of Hamburg, he often and enjoyed visiting his hometown. Especially since his two married daughters live on the Elbe. By the way, the grandchildren are also highly musical. As soon as Bert Kaempfert gave them trumpets, they played “Strangers In The Night” for him. But he also visited Hamburg often for another reason: many of his old friends live in the Hanseatic city. And there is also the studio where his records were produced.

57-year-old Bert Kaempfert died of heart failure in Malta. 

Source: Thuner Tagblatt, Volume 104, Number 150, June 30, 1980.

Listen to Many of His Greatest Hits

Bert Kaempfert - The Music Producer

Signed the Beatles to Their First Contract

And if I may add: I know that the Beatles episode is considered very important in the English-speaking world. His songs for Frank Sinatra and Nat King Cole had much more impact.

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