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Tobias Picker

Tobias Picker

Country of origin: United States of America
Birthday: July 18, 1954

About Tobias Picker

Tobias Picker (b. New York City, 1954), called “our finest composer for the lyric stage” by The Wall Street Journal, is a composer of numerous works in every genre drawing performances by the world’s leading musicians, orchestras and opera houses. Picker began composing at the age of eight and studied at the Manhattan School of Music, The Juilliard School and Princeton University where his principal teachers were Charles Wuorinen, Elliott Carter and Milton Babbitt. His first commissions occurred while still in his late teens and he quickly became established as one of America’s most sought after young composers.

By the age of thirty, Picker was the recipient of numerous awards and honors including the Bearns Prize (Columbia University), a Charles Ives Scholarship, and a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship. He received the prestigious Award in Music from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1992 and was elected to lifetime membership in the Academy in 2012. Picker served as the first composer-in-residence of the Houston Symphony from 1985-90, and has served as composer-in-residence for such major international festivals as the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival and the Pacific Music Festival. From 2010-2015, Picker served as Artistic Director of Opera San Antonio. In 2016, Picker was appointed Artistic Director of Tulsa Opera.

The Santa Fe Opera gave the world premiere of Picker’s internationally acclaimed first opera Emmeline in 1996. It was subsequently broadcast nationally on the PBS “Great Performances” series. The opera played to sold-out houses and international critical acclaim, and the opera’s premiere at New York City Opera was hailed by The New York Times as one of the ten most significant musical events of 1998. Opera Theatre of St. Louis mounted a major new production in June 2015, which garnered universal acclaim as “one of the best operas written in the past 25 years (The Wall Street Journal).

Picker’s second opera, based on Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr. Fox and commissioned and premiered by the Los Angeles Opera in a production starring Gerald Finley, established Picker as a composer whose appeal crosses all boundaries of age. Fantastic Mr. Fox recently completed a sold-out, three-year run at London’s Opera Holland Park, and the English Touring Opera toured the work extensively in England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland. OPERA San Antonio presented a new production of Fantastic Mr. Fox, created especially for the inaugural season of the Tobin Center, in September 2014. The Boston Modern Orchestra Project will release the premiere recording of Fantastic Mr. Fox in its original orchestration and featuring Opera San Antonio’s acclaimed cast.

A consortium of The Dallas Opera, San Diego Opera, and Opéra de Montréal commissioned Picker’s third opera, Thérèse Raquin, which was staged by Francesca Zambello. A reduced version of Thérèse Raquin was commissioned by Opera Theatre Europe and given its London premiere at Covent Garden ROH2. The reduced version has since received productions with Dicapo Opera Theatre, Long Beach Opera, Chicago Opera Theatre, Boston University Opera Institute, and Microscopic Opera.

The Metropolitan Opera commissioned Picker’s fourth opera, An American Tragedy, based on the novel by Theodore Dreiser (which also inspired the film A Place in the Sun). The world premiere of the opera took place at the Met in December 2005, featuring Patricia Racette, Nathan Gunn, Susan Graham, and Dolora Zajick in principal roles. The production was directed by Francesca Zambello and conducted by James Conlon. The Glimmerglass Festival gave the premiere of the revised version of An American Tragedy to wide acclaim in 2014.

Picker’s fifth opera, Dolores Claiborne, based on the Stephen King novel, starred Patricia Racette and Elizabeth Futral at its world premiere presented by San Francisco Opera in September 2013. Dolores Claiborne was hailed as “a triumph” (Opera News), “the best of his five operas” (The Los Angeles Times), “a brilliant musical incarnation” (The Huffington Post) and “an unflinching addition to the repertoire” (San Francisco Chronicle).

Picker’s symphonic music, including his famous tone poem Old and Lost Rivers, composed while he was composer-in-residence at the Houston Symphony, has been commissioned and performed by major orchestras around the world such as the BBC Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Helsinki Philharmonic, L’Orchestre de Paris, Munich Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Vienna RSO, and Zurich Tonhalle. His second piano concerto, Keys to the City (commissioned by the City of New York on the occasion of the centenary of the Brooklyn Bridge) is a perennial favorite, called “a vivid musical portrait of New York” by The New York Times and recorded by Jeremy Denk on Chandos, along with his Cello Concerto and the orchestral work And Suddenly It’s Evening.

The Encantadas (for actor and orchestra) features texts drawn from Herman Melville’s poetic descriptions of the Galapagos Islands and was recorded by the Houston Symphony with Sir John Gielgud; it has been performed throughout the world in seven languages. In addition to his five operas, Picker’s catalogue includes four symphonies, four piano concertos, concertos for violin, viola, cello and oboe, song cycles, string quartets, and chamber music. His ballet Awakenings, based on the themes and case studies in the novel of the same name by neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks, was commissioned by the Rambert Dance Company, which toured the work throughout the UK in 2011, performing it 80 times.

His extensive discography has been recorded on such labels as Nonesuch, Sony Classics, Virgin Classics, Chandos, Ondine, and Albany Records. Most recently, Wergo and Tzadik have devoted complete albums to Picker’s chamber music spanning the years 1976 to 2011, including the album Invisible Lilacs released by Tzadik in March 2014.

Picker’s first four operas received new productions in the 2014-2015 season at The Glimmerglass Festival (An American Tragedy), Opera San Antonio (Fantastic Mr. Fox), Opera Theatre of St. Louis (Emmeline), Chicago Opera Theater and Long Beach Opera (Thérèse Raquin). Called “seductive yet enigmatic” by The Washington Post, Picker’s large-scale orchestral work Opera Without Words received its world premiere with the National Symphony Orchestra in 2016, conducted by Christoph Eschenbach. In 2017, the New York City opera premiered the chamber version of Dolores Claiborne, and the National Symphony Orchestra celebrated the thirtieth anniversary of Old and Lost Rivers with performances of the work at the Kennedy Center and on tour in Moscow and St. Petersburg at the Mstislav Rostropovich Festival. In 2018, Picker led the Signature Symphony in a performance of arias from his operas, including "The Ghost Aria" and "The Seine Moves Like a Melody" from Thérèse Raquin and "The Letter Aria" and "Love Duet" from Emmeline. which have subsequently been made available as stand-alone concert works for voice(s) and orchestra.

Tobias Picker’s music is published exclusively worldwide by Schott Helicon Music Corporation and you may visit his personal website here: www.tobiaspicker.com



Born in Manhattan, NY
Accepted at the Juilliard Preparatory Division for studies in piano and theory.
Enters the Manhattan School of Music for composition studies with Charles Wuorinen, orchestration with John Corigliano. Also studies violin, cello and voice.
Bachelor of Music from the Manhattan School of Music.
"Sextet No. 3" premiered by Speculum Musicae in Alice Tully Hall.

Receives BMI Student Composers Award.
First national critical acclaim for premiere of "Rhapsody for Violin and Piano"

Receives Masters Degree of Music from the Juilliard School

Awarded the Bearns Prize (Columbia University)

Invited to attend Princeton University for further graduate studies in composition with Milton Babbitt.
"Nova",a companion piece to the Trout Quintet premiered.
Awarded first of two fellowhsips from The National Endowment for the Arts.
Awarded Guggenheim Fellowship.

"Violin Concerto", first major commission, premiered and recorded by the American Composers Orchestra.
Second National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship awarded.
"Symphony No. 1" premiered by the San Francisco Symphony, Edo de Waart, conductor, and performed on tour in Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center.

Piano Concerto No. 2: "Keys to the City" premiered by the Brooklyn Philharmonic, Lukas Foss, conductor and Tobias Picker, soloist.

"The Encantadas" premiered by the Albany Symphony — later recorded by Sir John Gielgud, with Christoph Eschenbach conducting the Houston Symphony for Virgin Records.

Nonesuch Records commissions "Serenade for Piano and Winds".
Charles Ives Scholarship of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Composes first song, "Aussöhnung" on text of Goethe for soprano Judith Bettina
Appointed as the first Composer-in-Residence to the Houston Symphony, serves through 1990.
"Symphony No. 2: Aussöhnung" for soprano and orchestra, premiered by the Houston Symphony, Sergiu Comissiona conducting.

Composes his tone poem, "Old and Lost Rivers".
Premiere of "String Quartet No. 1: New Memories" commissioned by the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Georgia O'Keefe.

Composer-in-Residence, Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival
Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center commissions "String Quartet with Bass". Premiered with composer conducting.

"Symphony No. 3", Houston Symphony commission, is premiered with David Zinman conducting.
Composes "Romance and Interludes" at Christoph Eschenbach's suggestion, for the Houston Symphony and their principal oboist, Robert Atherholt; based on Robert Schumann's "Three Romances, Opus 94".
"Two Fantasies" for orchestra premiered by Christoph Eschenbach and the Houston Symphony Orchestra, and performed on tour.
"Bang!" for piano and orchestra commissioned by the New York Philharmonic for their 150th anniversary year. Premiere conducted by Kurt Masur.

Wins the Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Music
"The Rain in the Trees" for soprano, flute and orchestra, based on poems of W.S. Merwin, is premiered by Lorin Maazel conducting the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Also performed by the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Commissioned by the Santa Fe Opera.
"And Suddenly It's Evening" premiered, inspired by a poem of Salvatore Quasimodo. Commissioned by a consortium of six youth orchestras.
Composer-in-Residence at the Pacific Music Festival, founded by Leonard Bernstein, in Sapporo, Japan.
"Emmeline", an opera in two acts with libretto by J.D. McClatchy, receives its world premiere at the Santa Fe Opera.
"Four Etudes for Ursula" commissioned by Northwestern University is premiered by Ursula Oppens, Carnegie Hall and Tanglewood Festival.

National television premiere of "Emmeline" on PBS' Great Performances.
"Fantastic Mr. Fox", his second opera, premiered by the Los Angeles Music Center Opera.

New York City Opera premiere of "Emmeline" garners international critical acclaim
Premiere of "Suite for Cello and Piano" by Lynn Harrell, commissioned by a consortium including the Ravinia Festival; the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Wolf Trap Foundation, and the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Ursula Oppens gives the European premiere of "Four Etudes for Ursula" in Berlin
European premiere of "Symphony No. 2: Aussöhnung", Munich Philharmonic, James Levine conducting.

World Premiere of "Tres sonetos de amor" for soprano and piano, with Judith Bettina and James Goldsworthy.
World premiere of "Thérèse Raquin",The Dallas Opera

World premiere of the "Concerto for Cello and Orchestra" at the BBC Proms.
Canadian Premiere of "Thérèse Raquin" (in French translation) at L'Opera de Montreal.

World Premiere of "Tres sonetos de amor", Pacific Symphony Orchestra. Carl St. Clare, conducting, Nathan Gunn, baritone.
West Coast Premiere of "Thérèse Raquin" at San Diego Opera.

European Premiere of "Tres sonetos de amor", Strasbourg Philharmonique.

"The Encantadas" widely performed throughout the US (twentieth anniversary of the work).
The "Blue Hula" European Premiere, Christoph Eschenbach, L'Orchestre de Paris.
Premiere of "An American Tragedy" at the Metropolitan Opera.
Premiere of the chamber version of "Thérèse Raquin" at the Linbury Studio of the Royal Opera House at Covent Garden.
American premiere of the chamber version of "Thérèse Raquin" at the Dicapo Opera Theatre of New York.
Wergo releases "Tobias Picker - Keys to the City", an album of the composer's piano music featuring pianist Ursula Oppens.
Word premiere of "String Quartet No. 2" by the American String Quartet at Merkin Concert Hall in New York City.

Ursula Oppens premieres "Four Etudes for Ursula" and "Three Nocturnes for Ursula" at Baisly Powell Elebash Recital Hall in New York City.
Rambert Dance Company tours Tobias Picker’s new ballet "Awakenings"

Opera Holland Park premieres "Fantastic Mr. Fox" in new chamber version.
the piano quintet "Live Oaks" debuts at Da Camera Houston with pianist Sarah Rothenberg and the Brentano String Quartet.
Tobias Picker elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
San Francisco Opera presents the world premiere of "Dolores Claiborne", directed by James Robinson and conducted by George Manahan with a libretto by J.D. McClatchy.
Glimmerglass Festival premieres revised version of "An American Tragedy", directed by Peter Kazaras and conducted by George Manahan.

"Fantastic Mr. Fox" in new production at Opera San Antonio, directed by Erica Olden, followed by a semi-staged performance with Boston Modern Orchestra Project and Odyssey Opera

Tzadik Records releases "Invisible Lilacs: Chamber Music 1976-2011"
Opera Theatre of Saint Louis mounts major revival of "Emmeline", directed by James Robinson and conducted by George Manahan.

New joint production of "Thérèse Raquin" presented by Long Beach Opera and Chicago Opera Theatre
Picker's "Opera Without Words" debuts with the National Symphony Orchestra, led by Christoph Eschenbach.

Picker appointed Artistic Director of Tulsa Opera
The chamber version of “Dolores Claiborne” is given its world premiere by the New York City Opera, led by Pacien Mazzagatti

Marking the 30th anniversary of “Old and Lost Rivers”, The National Symphony Orchestra honors the occasion with performances at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., and on tour in Moscow and St. Petersburg at the Mstislav Rostropovich Festival.
Grammy Award for the recording of "Fantastic Mr. Fox" by the Odyssey Opera in the category "Best Opera Recording"