School years

Jędrzejów, 1917

Towards the end of  1916 Palester, together with his tuberculosis-stricken mother, moved to Zakopane, where he went to a private secondary school. At the same time he continued to take piano lessons and played in the school’s chamber orchestra. His stay in Zakopane coincided with breakthrough political events in the history of Poland: end of the First World War and regaining of independence (11 November 1918). Yet for the boy family matters were more important. After a long illness his mother died on 19 August 1919. The eleven-year-old Roman had to move with his father to Cracow – again changing school and having to find new friends. As his father was too busy to take care of his son, Roman moved in with Zofia Przypkowska and her children. He attended the state secondary school in Krupnicza Street and took piano and music theory lessons from Klara Umlauf and Zygmunt Przeorski at the Musical Institute. His stay in Cracow ended in the summer of 1921. After an outbreak of typhus, Henryk Palester was appointed commissioner responsible for fighting the disease in the south-eastern part of the country and moved to Lviv, followed by Roman, who arrived there after the end of the school year. In the autumn of 1921 he was admitted to grade 5 of the King Casimir the Great Grammar School and to the Conservatoire of the Polish Musical Society. He attended Maria Sołtysowa’s piano classes and was taught harmony, solfeggio, and the history of music and musical forms by Adam Sołtys, Franciszek Neuhauser and Stanisław Niewiadomski. The period was marked by his first attempts at composition. Lviv’s musical life, represented by Mieczysław Sołtys, was relatively rich at the time, though focused mainly on the 19th century tradition. In his memoirs (Perfect Pitch) Palester wrote that he had to discover contemporary musical literature mainly on his own. He was particularly interested in the works by Karol Szymanowski, Claude Debussy, Maurice Ravel and Igor Stravinsky. In addition to pursuing his musical studies, he read a lot, explored antique shops and went on trips to the mountains. He was also a boy scout and belonged to the First Lviv Squad, the oldest boy scout squad in Poland, established already before WWI. Soon after his arrival in Lviv, Roman&#39;s father married again; his second wife was Maria Sulisławska. He had two children with her: son Krzysztof, who died in the Warsaw Uprising, and daughter Małgorzata. In 1924 he was offered a job at the Ministry of Health in Warsaw and moved with his family to the capital. Roman remained on his own in Lviv for another year to complete his secondary education and it was not until the autumn of 1925 that he arrived in Warsaw.</p><p>In 1925 Roman Palester began to study history of art at the University of Warsaw. He also tookthe entrance exam in piano at the Warsaw Conservatoire. However, he did not qualify and was instead admitted to study theory under Piotr Rytel. He was not satisfied with these studies and tried to resit the entrance exam a year later, this time in clarinet. He did not succeed either. After the Warsaw Conservatoire was reorganised and after Karol Szymanowski became its director in 1927, Palester resumed his musical studies in 1928, studying theory under Kazimierz Sikorski whose class was transformed into composition class in 1931. In the same year Palester obtained a diploma in composition, presenting as his final work Psalm V for baritone, mixed choir and orchestra to words by Wespazjan Kochowski (the following year this work won him the second prize at a competition organised by the Wielkopolska [Greater Poland] Association of Singing Societies in Poznań).