Final years

Roman Palester, 1960s/70sRoman Palester, 1970s.1970s.Roman Palester, 1970s.

In 1972, following their retirement, the Palesters again settled in Paris. Palester devoted himself exclusively to composition. Not very popular in the West, he was generating increasing interest in Poland. The ban on Palester’s name, just like the ban on Panufnik, remained in force until 1977, when the Board of the Polish Composers’ Union managed to have it lifted. The Board took advantage of the opportunity offered by concerts and conferences held in Warsaw on the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of Young Polish Musicians in Paris. From that moment on Palester’s works began to reappear in concert programmes. Thus, the programme of the "Warsaw Autumn" International Festival of Contemporary Music in 1979 featured the premiere of his Viola Concerto conducted by Andrzej Markowski with Stefan Kamasa as the soloist. During the General Meeting of the Members of the Polish Composers' Union on 31 January 1981 the 1951 decision to strike Palester off the member list was annulled. In the same year the composer was invited by the Consultative Committee of the Artists’ and Scientists’ Associations to take part in the Polish Culture Congress held from 11 to 13 December 1981. However, Palester declined the invitation. He was thus spared the shock that the participants felt when the congress was interrupted by the introduction of martial law in Poland on 13 December 1981.

On 6 September 1983 the composer’s wife, Barbara Palester, died after a long illness. After this blow Palester never regained his strength and spiritual balance. However, he came to Poland soon after that to attend a concert of his works conducted by Stanisław Gałoński and the work premiere of hisHymnus pro gratiarum actione (Te Deum) by the Cracow Philharmonic conducted by Tadeusz Strugała. It verged on the miraculous that Palester, who had a refugee passport, managed to obtain a visa to enter Poland during martial law. Despite the fact that broadcasting and recording of both concerts were banned and that secret orders forbade any official meetings with the composer, Palester’s presence in Cracow became a major event, and for him personally both concerts as well as meetings with friends were very moving.

In the last few years of his life Palester composed little. He decided to sort out his scores, sometimes making new versions of his old works. He also began to write memoirs entitled Perfect Pitch. Unfortunately, he did not manage to complete that work. Nor did he manage to make another visit to Poland. After a short illness Roman Palester died on the morning of 25 August 1989 in his Paris apartment at 46-48 Chardon-Lagache Street. He was buried in the Polish Cemetery in Montmorency near Paris.

Zofia Helman

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