Born of Sicilian immigrant parents in Detroit, Mr. Tocco’s love of music -especially opera—began in early childhood. At six years old he began studying piano and at twelve he made his orchestral debut, performing Beethoven’s Second Piano Concerto. He won a scholarship to the Salzburg Mozarteum and a French government grant to study with Magda Tagliaferro in Paris. His classical music education was completed with Claudio Arrau in New York. Soon afterward, he became more prominent with his first-prize victory in the ARD International Music Competition in Munich, followed being a replacement for Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli as guest soloist for the Tchaikovsky First Piano Concerto at the Vienna Festival.
In the years since then he has concertized internationally, throughout North and South America, Europe, the Soviet Union, Japan, Australia, South Africa, and the Middle East. His orchestral engagements include:
- Cleveland and Minnesota orchestras;
- Berlin Philharmonic
- London Philharmonic
- Hong Kong and Munich philharmonics
- London, Houston, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Detroit, Chicago, New World, National, and NHK (Japan) symphonies.
Conductors with whom he has collaborated include:
- Marin Alsop
- David Atherton
- Esa-Pekka Salonen
- Jesús Lopez-Cobos
- Andrew Litton
- Yoav Talmi
- Robert Shaw
- Yoel Levi
- Zdenek Macal
- Eduardo Mata
Mr. Tocco is a recitalist, orchestral soloist, chamber musician, and educator. He has performed many American and European masterworks, including Bernstein’s Age of Anxiety, which he recorded with Leonard Slatkin and the BBC London Symphony Orchestra, and the Corigliano Piano Concerto.
The pianist’s performances included his Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra debut, performing the MacDowell Concerto and Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, both conducted by Leonard Slatkin. An especially accomplished recitalist, Mr. Tocco has performed interpretations of Beethoven, Chopin, and Liszt, as well as 20th-century composers, and he regularly programs the keyboard works of Handel. Other performances include Bernstein’s Age of Anxiety with Marin Alsop and the New York Symphony, and Leonard Slatkin and the London-based BBC Symphony orchestra.
Mr. Tocco’s discography includes:
- Bernstein’s complete solo piano music
- Solo piano version of the Suite from Rodeo
- The complete Chopin Préludes
- The complete piano music of Charles Tomlinson Griffes
- Erwin Schulhof’s Cinq Etudes de Jazz
- Bach-Liszt organ transcriptions
- Copland Music for Piano
- Various chamber music of Eduard Franck.
- Four piano sonatas of Edward MacDowell.
Recently, he performed a recording of Corigliano’s Etude-Fantasy on Sony Classical.
In addition to his itinerary, Mr. Tocco is Eminent Scholar/Artist in Residence at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, a faculty member at the Manhattan School of Music and professor of piano at the Musikhochschule in Lübeck, Germany. Mr. Tocco is also the artistic director of the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.
- Manhattan School of Music: James Tocco
- John F. Kennedy Centre for the Performing Arts: James Tocco
- University of Cincinnati, College-Conservatory of Music: James Tocco
- Hexagone.net: Classical Music Academies - James Tocco
- ArkivMusic: James Tocco Lists 15 albums on several different record labels.
- The New York Times, February 5, 1986: Recital - James Tocco, Liszt and Bach Tribute. Review by Donal Henahan
- The New York Times, August 12, 2005: Adventures Outside the Classical Canon: Pathfinding Composers "Here are some favorite contemporary recordings of the classical-music critics of The New York Times."