Robert Pikler

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Robert Pikler OBE (24 January 1909 – 16 January 1984) was a Hungarian-Australian violinist, violist and teacher.

Pikler received his musical training in his native Budapest, first under Eugene Ormandy, then at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music, principally under Nándor Zsolt and Jenő Hubay. As a violinist he toured extensively in Central Europe, prior to taking his own orchestra to India in 1934. For the next eight years he appeared as director of the orchestra and as soloist in important concert and radio work in the Far East.

In 1946, following three years of internment during World War II, he took up residence in Sydney. As a leader of the Musica Viva Chamber Music Players, he became engaged in a continuous schedule of ensemble and solo concert work throughout Australia and New Zealand. In 1952 he accepted the invitation from Sir Eugene Goossens to become the principal viola of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, a position he filled with great distinction for 14 years. Meanwhile, chamber music occupied much of his time outside orchestral duties.

During a four-month absence from Australia in 1962, he visited the United States, England, France, the Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland, Hungary and Austria. Leaving the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in 1966, he became Artistic Director and viola player for the Sydney String Quartet. At the same time he began teaching at the New South Wales Conservatorium of Music. The Sydney Conservatorium Chamber Orchestra which he founded in 1966 was the first Australian ensemble to undertake a tour of South East Asia on behalf of the Department of External Affairs.

Pikler received the Britannica Award of $10,000 in 1972 for his services to Australian music and in 1974 was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE). He died in 1984, shortly before turning 75.

Various recordings he made in 1980 as conductor of the Sydney Symphony (recordings devoted to Leopold Stokowski's orchestral arrangements of Johann Sebastian Bach) are now available on Britain's Chandos label.