‘Forbidden Songs’ – Palester Celebration

Forbidden Songs: Lost Music of Midcentury Poland”—a two-day festival exploring the fraught artistic and personal decisions confronted under repressive regimes—will be held on March 17-18 at Cornell University and March 22-23 at Swarthmore College. This festival features the world premiere of the English-subtitled version of the film Forbidden Songs (1946), which narrates everyday life in Warsaw through the lens of music banned during the Nazi occupation, and for which Roman Palester composed the score. The second day highlights U.S. premieres of songs and chamber works by Palester. Full details at forbiddensongs.org

3/17 at Cornell & 3/22 at Swarthmore:
The world premiere of the English-subtitled version of the film Forbidden Songs, which was the first feature film released in Poland after WWII. Conceived and written by Ludwik Starski, a Polish-Jewish survivor of the Holocaust, the film remarkably adopted the genre of light musical comedy to portray the diverse experiences of Warsaw’s inhabitants during the period of Nazi occupation (1939–1945). The film’s score, created by Palester, draws heavily on authentic popular sources, notably satirical Polish “street songs” banned by the Nazis but nonetheless performed as expressions of resistance and a means of psychological sustenance during this time of deprivation and terror.

The world premiere of the film will be of great interest to anyone fascinated by European cinema and music, WWII history and politics, and Holocaust studies. “The film gives us a glimpse into the ways in which music helped Polish Jews and non-Jews alike to reclaim notions of community in the immediate postwar years,” explains Barbara Milewski, Associate Professor of Music at Swarthmore College, who will introduce the film at the screening.

3/18 at Cornell & 3/23 at Swarthmore:
The U.S. premieres of music by composer Roman Palester (1907–1989) is a major event for both concert audiences and scholars. Palester’s blend of neoclassical energy with a lyrical sensibility made him among the most distinctive composers of twentieth-century Poland. But his music was long banned there and has been almost completely forgotten. This program paints a broader picture of Palester’s compositional evolution. Beginning from his first, mature neoclassical works from the late 1930s, it will also highlight his later embrace of European avant-gardes in the 1960s and 70s.

Members of Cornell’s new music group, Ensemble X, will lead the premieres, including pianists Xak Bjerken, Andrew Zhou, and Ryan MacEvoy McCullough; soprano Lucy Fitz Gibbon; and violinists David Colwell and Susan Waterbury.

All events are free and open to the public; no tickets are required. Events at both Universities will also include lectures and introductions by the main organizers of the Festival, Barbara Milewski and Mackenzie Pierce.

Cosponsored by the Cornell Council for the Arts; the Society for the Humanities at Cornell; the Cornell Institute for European Studies, the Council for European Studies; and the Departments of Jewish Studies, Romance Studies, and Music.

March 17-18, 2018 | Various times
Forbidden Songs: Lost Music of Midcentury Poland

Cornell University – various venues
144 East Ave., Ithaca, NY 14853
FREE Admission
Info: forbiddensongsorg.wordpress.com/cornell-concert-details & events.cornell.edu

March 22-23, 2018 | Various times
Forbidden Songs: Lost Music of Midcentury Poland
Swarthmore College – various venues
500 College Avenue, Swarthmore, PA 19081
FREE Admission
Info: forbiddensongsorg.wordpress.com/swarthmore-concert-details & swatcentral.swarthmore.edu

[Sources: press release, forbiddensongsorg.wordpress.comnewmusicusa.org]