Born in London in 1920, Peter Racine Fricker 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 also studied privately with Mátyás Seiber.

He was appointed professor of composition at the Royal College of Music (London), and in 1952 became director of music at Morley College. His wind quintet (1947) attracted widespread attention, and his first string quartet (also 1947) and symphony (1949) were 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) and works for piano and organ

Fricker became visiting professor of music at the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1964. Six years later, he took a permanent position there, and lived in California for the rest of his life. From 1984 to 1986 he was president of the Cheltenham International Festival of Music and Literature.