Decision to emigrate

With wife BarbaraBudapest 1948Budapest 1948

Palester was not oppressed by Poland’s communist authorities. On the contrary – universally considered to be Karol Szymanowski’s successor, he was one of those artists that the authorities wanted to win over for the purposes of the state cultural policy. Yet the intensity of his professional and organisational activities as well as the general political atmosphere were not conducive to composing. Palester did not feel teaching was his vocation; he disliked the constant meetings and various public activities he was forced to participate in together with other artists. In addition, the house in Cracow (at 5a Lea Street) where he lived in an apartment, was taken over by the Public Security Office. Following an intervention by Minister Stanisław Radkiewicz, Palester was allowed to stay in his apartment, but he quickly realised who his "neighbours" were. The 1946 referendum and the rigged parliamentary elections of January 1947 made it clear it was useless to expect changes for the better. Therefore, as early as 1947 Palester took a sabbatical, resigned from his post of deputy rector of the State School of Music and left for Paris together with his wife. Both were official delegates sent by the Ministry of Culture and Art and had multiple entry passports. They did not intend to emigrate; between 1947 and 1948 Palester would often come to Poland to work on various films, which was a source of substantial income. Soon, however, a conflict arose between Palester and the Polish musical circles and the ministry, especially after he refused to take part in the World Congress of Intellectuals for Peace in Wrocław in 1948. The composer himself admitted later that he lacked "political realism" at the time, and the year-long stay in France was enough to make him not fully aware of the changes happening in Poland, particularly between 1948 and 1949, a crucial period for culture.

The regime planned to subordinate the entire cultural sphere to propaganda and to make culture a tool for the totalitarian authorities. As in literature and fine arts, the trend imposed by the authorities was socialist realism (socrealism in short). Its principles were proclaimed during the National Congress of Composers and Music Critics in Łagów Lubuski that was held from 5 to 9 August 1949. Palester came to Łagów at the invitation of the Minister of Culture and Art, Włodzimierz Sokorski; the authorities even covered his travel costs. However, he returned to Paris immediately after the congress. Yet the fact that Sokorski offered him in Łagów the rectorship of the State School of Music in Warsaw or the directorship of the National Philharmonic made the composer consider a return to Poland for a while. In the same year, 1949, Roman Palester and his wife applied for refugee status in Paris, but the composer still hoped that he would be able to continue his stay in Paris while maintaining his contacts with Poland and his cooperation with the PWM Edition. He also hoped that he would continue to receive royalties sent to him by the Association of Stage Authors and Composers (ZAiKS). However, in 1950 the Polish authorities refused to transfer money to him from the ZAiKS account. At the same time, the Ministry of Culture and Art stopped the publication by the PWM Edition of the piano transcription of hisViolin Concerto. Thus, when the émigré press officially announced that Palester refused to return to Poland and decided to remain in the West, the last links between him and Polish institutions were severed. In 1951 Palester himself gave up his membership of the ZAiKS and joined the Société des Auteurs, Compositeurs et Éditeurs de Musique in Paris. This decision led to repression against him in Poland: he was thrown out of the Polish Composers’ Union and his works were banned from concert halls. Palester’s name was removed from publications, publishers’ catalogues and even film credits, while the copies of his scores published after the war by the PWM Edition were destroyed.

Jury of the Bartók CompetitionJury of the Bartók CompetitionJury of the ISCMFirst performance  Requiem04_19_okolicznosc1950s.Pismo ZKP01_14_PortretyRoman Palester, 1951