Free and open to the public, this festival presents U.S. premieres of Roman Palester’s (1907–1989) chamber music, vocal works, and films.

Join us March 17-18 at Cornell University or March 22-23 at Swarthmore College.

Panel 1


Among the most distinctive composers of mid-twentieth-century Poland, Palester was persecuted during the Nazi occupation and subsequently fled communist Poland in the 1950s. His music was banned until the 1970s and to this day, these compositions remain largely unrecorded and virtually unknown.

By bringing his works back to life, “Forbidden Songs” explores the fraught artistic and personal decisions that Palester confronted under repressive regimes.

Equally testaments to their tumultuous era and documents of lasting artistic value, Palester’s compositions help reconsider the ever-present quandaries that bind artistic vision with political responsibility.

Panel 2

World Premiere of the film Forbidden Songs in English

The festival will feature the world premiere of the English-subtitled version of the film Forbidden Songs (1947), which narrates everyday life in Warsaw through the lens of music banned during the German occupation. Palester created the film’s score by arranging and reworking these forbidden songs.

Barbara Milewski (Swarthmore College) will introduce the film, drawing on interviews with cast members and the screenwriter’s family.

Panel 4

Special Thanks

“Forbidden Songs” has been made possible thanks to the generous support of the Cornell Council for the Arts; the Society for the Humanities at Cornell; the Cornell Institute for European Studies, the Council for European Studies; the Jewish Studies Program; and the Departments of Romance Studies and Music at Cornell University; Swarthmore College’s Department of Music and Dance; Swarthmore College Faculty Research Support; and The Peter Gram Swing Lecture Fund.