Peter Ruzicka was born in Düsseldorf in 1948. After completing his instrumental and theoretical training at Hamburg Conservatory (piano, oboe and compositional theory), he studied Composition with Hans Werner Henze and Hans Otte. He then studied Law and Musicology in Munich, Hamburg and Berlin, earning his doctorate in 1977 with an interdisciplinary dissertation on perpetual intellectual property rights.
He has received many awards and distinctions for his compositions, including the UNESCO Prize “International Rostrum of Composers” (Paris) and the Louis Spohr Music Prize. His works have been performed by leading orchestras and ensembles: Berlin Philharmonic, Staatskapelle Dresden, Munich Philharmonic, Bamberg Symphony, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra, Amsterdam Concertgebouw, London Philharmonia, Orchestre Philharmonique de Paris, Czech Philharmonic, Vienna RSO, Israel Philharmonic, New York Philharmonic and all the German radio symphony orchestras. Conductors of the stature of Gerd Albrecht, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Semyon Bychkov, Riccardo Chailly, Christoph Eschenbach, Michael Gielen, Eliahu Inbal, Mariss Jansons, Kurt Masur, Antonio Pappano, Giuseppe Sinopoli and Christian Thielemann have championed his music. The recording of Peter Ruzicka’s String Quartets performed by the Minguet Quartet was awarded the ECHO Klassik 2010.
Since 1990 Ruzicka has held a professorship at Hamburg University of Music and Theatre. He is a member of the Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts and the Hamburg Free Academy of the Arts. He served as managing director of the RSO Berlin (1979–87) and the Hamburg State Opera and Hamburg Philharmonic Orchestra (1988–97). In 1996 he succeeded Hans Werner Henze as artistic director of the Munich Biennale for New Music Theatre, a position he has held to the present day. In 1997 he became artistic adviser to the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra in Amsterdam, and two years later president of the Bavarian Theatre Academy. He also served as artistic director of the Salzburg Festival (2001–06). From 2015 he will serve as director of the Salzburg Easter Festival.
As a conductor, Ruzicka has stood at the helm of many leading orchestras: DSO Berlin, Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Vienna Symphony, Staatskapelle Dresden, Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, Symphony Orchestra of the Bavarian Radio, NDR Symphony Orchestra, Bamberg Symphony, RSO Stuttgart, SWR Symphony Orchestra Baden-Baden and Freiburg, WDR Symphony Orchestra Cologne, hr Symphony Orchestra Frankfurt, MDR Symphony Orchestra Leipzig, Munich Philharmonic, Orchestra of the Deutsche Oper Berlin), Munich Chamber Orchestra, Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie, Danish National Orchestra, Czech Philharmonic, Vienna RSO, Mozarteum Orchestra (Salzburg), Gulbenkian Orchestra (Lisbon), China Philharmonic and the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestra (Tokyo).