Roman Palester

One of the most significant twentieth-century Polish composers, Palester is often seen as a “successor to Karol Szymanowski.”

He studied piano at the Krakow Institute of Music and at the conservatory in Lwów (now L’viv), as well as art history as the University of Warsaw and composition and music theory at Warsaw Conservatory. He was the secretary of the Association of Polish Composers as well as the vice-president of the Polish section of the International Society for Contemporary Music.From the early 1950s, he was an émigré, and from 1952 he worked for Radio Free Europe in Munich. This led to a ban on his name and works in the communist Poland and to his more or less complete disappearance from official musical life in his home country. Even after the censorship on his name was rescinded in 1977, he never managed to re-establish a permanent presence in the minds of the Polish audiences, and performances of his works, despite their great merits, are still rare, even today. After retiring from Radio Free Europe in 1972, Palester moved to Paris, where he died. He only visited Poland once before his death, in 1983.

Palester’s rich and varied output comprises works for piano (including two sonatas), chamber and orchestra music (five symphonies, concertos, and concertinos, among others), as well as vocal-instrumental works (orchestrated songs, a Requiem, Te Deum, as well as the ‘stage action’ Death of Don Juan). His individual musical style draws on the neoclassical movement (as heard on this CD), but explores dodecaphonic and serial techniques as well. He also composed for the theatre and film, especially during the interwar years. Of much value and interest are also his writings for the press, the scripts for his broadcasts with Radio Free Europe, as well as his correspondence.

Palester’s archive and personal papers are held at the University of Warsaw Library, which has actively promoted his life and works for many years.

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