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Peter Racine Fricker

Peter Racine Fricker (5 September 1920 – 1 February 1990) was an English composer who lived in the US for the last thirty years of his life.

Fricker was born in London, and studied with R. O. Morris and Ernest Bullock at the Royal College of Music. After serving in the Royal Air Force during World War II, Fricker undertook a period of study with Mátyás Seiber. He held a post as professor of composition at the Royal College of Music in London, and in 1952 he became director of music at Morley College, succeeding Michael Tippett.

His wind quintet (1947) attracted widespread attention, and his first string quartet (1947) and symphony (1949) were also well received. Four more symphonies (1951, 1960, 1966, 1976) followed, which are among his most appreciated works. Other works include Paseo for guitar (1969), Sinfonia in Memoriam Benjamin Britten (1977), two violin concertos (1950, 1954), choral and chamber works (including the 1956 Cello and Piano Sonata, recorded twenty years later for L'Oiseau Lyre by Julian Lloyd Webber and John McCabe) and works for piano and organ.

Stylistically his music was significantly different from the mainstream English school of the middle 20th century; instead of following in the lyrical, folk-song influenced tradition of Holst, Vaughan Williams and others, he wrote music which was chromatic, contrapuntal, and acerbic—more akin to Schoenberg, Bartók, and Hindemith than to any of his English contemporaries. Unlike Schoenberg, however, he never abandoned tonality altogether, preferring to work in a dissonant idiom which retained a tonal basis—a position considered to be conservative in the musical milieu of the 1950s and 1960s.

Fricker became visiting professor of music at the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1964. Six years later, he took a permanent position at this university; he became chairman of the Music Department in 1970, and was appointed "faculty research lecturer" in 1979, the highest academic honor which the university bestows on its faculty. From 1984 to 1986 he was president of the Cheltenham International Festival of Music and Literature in England.

He was a descendant of the French playwright Racine.


Although not intended as an exhaustive list, the current recordings are available as of April 2007:

  • Symphony No. 2 (with Robert Simpson Symphony No. 1 / Robin Orr Symphony in One Movement). Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra / Sir John Pritchard, EMI Classics, November 2002 (reissue from 2 LPs, the first coupling the Fricker and Simpson.)
  • Violin Sonatas 1 (1950) and 2 (1987) (with Alan Rawsthorne/Vaughan Williams violin sonatas). Susanne Stanzeleit (violin) / Julian Jacobson (piano) Cala Records, September 2000
  • A Babe is Born (Choral piece) on "Hodie: An English Christmas Collection". The Sixteen / Harry Christophers Coro Records October 2001
  • Cello Sonata (Julian Lloyd Webber and John McCabe, Lyrita, February 2009 - reissue from a 1977 l'Oiseau Lyre LP?)
  • O Mistress Mine, for voice with guitar accompaniment, Sir Peter Pears, Julian Bream, RCA Victor (1996)
  • Violin Concerto, Op.11, F28 (1949–50) (Yfrah Neaman, violin; Norman Del Mar conducting the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra) (2008 Lyrita reissue from a 1974 Argo LP)

Here follows a selective list also of the following recordings, which are no longer available—or, at least have not yet been reissued.

  • String Quartet No.2, Op.20, F46 (1952–53) (Amadeus Quartet, Argo LP, ca.1963, coupled with Benjamin Britten's 2nd String Quartet.) (OCLC 26881426)
  • Symphony No.5 with organ, Op.74, F153 (1976) (probably Gillian Weir/Sir Colin Davis/BBC Symphony, which was the May 5, 1976 premiere;[1] on an Aries LP (a sort of pirate production), with the performer listing typically replaced, though the conductor given as "Ernest Weir".) OCLC 7804255
  • Wind Quintet, Op.5, F11 (1947) (recorded on Argo, 1962, by the Brain Quintet - named for Dennis Brain)

External links

  • Guide to the Peter Racine Fricker papers at the University of California, Santa Barbara Library.
  • Fricker Chronological Catalogue of Works as prepared by the composer and maintained at University of California, Santa Barbara.
  • Very fast movement from Fricker Cello Sonata on YouTube.


  1. ^ Fricker Chronological Catalogue, Symphony 5; the Schott entry for this work lists a slightly later performance (August 1976) conducted by Christopher Adey as part of the BBC Proms that year.
  • Ian Kemp/Michael Meckna: "Peter Racine Fricker", Grove Music Online ed. L. Macy (Accessed September, 2004), (subscription access)
  • Percy A. Scholes, The Oxford Companion to Music. London, Oxford University Press, 1970. No ISBN.
  • Obituary, published in Santa Barbara News-Press, February 1990.
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