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Frederick Piket

Frederick PiketFREDERICK PIKET (1903 – 1974), born Sigfried, was the son of a Viennese physician. He played the violin at the age of 5 and became a student at the Vienna State’s Conservatory while in high school, studying violin, piano and music theory. After finishing high school, he studied at medical college for 2½ years, at the insistence of his father, but finally resolved the conflict, and his father reluctantly gave his support to the idea that his son would concentrate on studying piano, music theory (counterpoint and composition) and conducting, solely to prepare himself for a career as a conductor.

As a young man, Mr. Piket held various posts as a conductor for opera and operetta companies in Austria, Switzerland and Germany. During this time, however, his interest in composition grew to the point where he took up residence in Berlin in order to pursue additional studies at the Musik Hochschule (now Universitat der Kunst), where he was awarded a scholarship to study at the school’s master class for composition under the teacher and composer Franz Schreker. Two years later, Mr. Piket won the prestigious Mendelssohn Award.

In 1933, when Hitler and the Nazis came to power in Germany, Mr. Piket migrated to Barcelona, Spain, where he remained for seven years. However, the Spanish Civil War made it unusually difficult for a foreign composer in Spain, and Mr. Piket supported himself by playing piano and violin. In 1940 Mr. Piket immigrated to the United States, and from that time, he resided in New York City until his death February 28, 1974. He became a U.S. citizen in 1946.

It was in the U.S. that Mr. Piket wrote several compositions that gave testimony of his growing interest in the cultural background of his new country. Among his early American works are the suite The Funnies, Variations for Orchestra on Go Down Moses and the overture Curtain Raiser to an American Play.

Through a series of coincidences, Mr. Piket became acquainted with the aspirations of Reform Judaism and its musical aspects and decided to take an active part in this creative movement. For this purpose, he took up organ studies and, while playing in several synagogues, began composing a series of pieces for the Jewish sacred service. He soon achieved renown as a liturgical composer in the Reform Jewish movement. Mr. Piket also continued to compose secular music, and his orchestral works have been performed by the New York Philharmonic (under Mitropoulos and Autori), the Buffalo Symphony Orchestra, the Toronto Philharmonic and the Indianapolis Symphonic Orchestra (under Savitsky).

A former professor at New York University, Mr. Piket was engaged actively at the time of his death as an instructor at the Hebrew Union College School of Sacred Music and was music director of the Free Synagogue of Flushing (New York).

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