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Helman Zofia

Roman Palester. Twórca i dzieło

Studia et dissertationes Instituti Musicologiae Universitatis Varsoviensis, series B vol. VII, Musica Iagellonica, Cracow 1999, 417 pages
In her book, Zofia Helman attempts to restore Roman Palester and his music to their proper place in the most recent history of Polish music. In her opinion, “a consideration of Palester’s works makes possible a different interpretation of stylistic transformations in Polish music. It is commonly believed that those changes appeared as late as 1956, but in Palester’s music they make their mark already in the late 1940s. His Symphony No. 4, Threnodies, Sonnets to Orpheus exemplify a new type of attitude to composition, free not only from the soc-realist ideology of music writing in the early 1950s, but also from the autonomous neo-Classical tendency which was then still dominant among Polish composers. That Palester was ahead of his contemporaries was the result not only of contact with European music, which others lacked, but, most importantly it seems, Palester’s greater artistic maturity, which soon made him weary of hitherto stylistic standards and necessitated a search for new ways. He was among the first Polish postwar composers who made references to the Viennese School and showed an interest in dodecaphony. It is not the controversy over Palester’s precedence that is important, though [...] but rather the originality of Palester’s works and his highly individual transformation of the original models. [...] In the years that followed, when the act of searching and experimenting came to be regarded as an artistic value for its own sake, and the musical work became an isolated one-time product, Palester - though he did not reject the idea of musical innovation - remained faithful to the idea of a composition as a an artistic result, an aesthetic entity which could conquer time. In this attitude of his, he was not isolated. In the music of the late fifties and the sixties, we can discern not only the radical avant-garde and the neo-Classical generation, but also the authors of a new synthesis who fostered their link with tradition while constantly engaging in an endeavour to innovate musical language and means of expression. The works of composers like Lutosławski, Bacewicz, Baird, Serocki, Penderecki, Górecki, Panufnik, together with Palester’s compositions, form a kind of continuum, which from the historical perspective has proved more important for Polish music than participation in experimental trends in electronic music, musical graphics or happening. The commonly accepted slogans of the avant-garde and its resulting “inventions” have proved to be a mere backdrop for great individualities whose art developed in an autonomous way, defying classification and simplifications. Such categories as the perfection of a work, formal quality, emotive character and artistic message laid the foundation for Palester’s Don Juan, Lutosławski’s Funeral Music, Penderecki’s Passion and Utrenya, Baird’s Tomorrow or Górecki’s Ad Matrem. [...] The 1970s brought a number of mutually corresponding, great symphonic forms: Lutosławski’s Cello Concerto, Penderecki’s Violin Concerto, Baird’s Concerto lugubre and Palester’s Viola Concerto; the later years also added symphonies: Palester’s Symphony No. 5, Penderecki’s Symphony No.2 and No. 3.”