The German violist, Tabea Zimmermann, began learning the viola at the age of three, and two years later began playing the piano. At the age of 13, she studied with Ulrich Koch at the Musikhochschule Freiburg and subsequently with Sándor Végh at the Mozarteum University of Salzburg. Following her studies, she received several awards at international competitions, amongst them first prizes at the 1982 Geneva International Competition and the 1984 Budapest International Competition. As a result of winning the 1983 Maurice Vieux Competition in Paris, she received a viola by the contemporary maker Etienne Vatelot on which she has played in her worldwide concert tours ever since.
For many years, Tabea Zimmermann has been recognized as one of the most popular and renowned musicians of our time. Her charismatic personality, deep musical understanding and natural playing are valued equally by both her audience and her fellow musicians. Arguably the finest violist in the world today, she owes her success not only to her exceptional talent, but also to the support of her parents, thorough training by excellent teachers, and a tireless enthusiasm to communicate her understanding and love of music to her audience. As a soloist she has performed with numerous major orchestras, including the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Berliner Philharmoniker, BBC Philharmonic, and L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, under the baton of noted conductors including Kurt Masur, Bernard Haitink, Christoph Eschenbach, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, and others.
Tabea Zimmermann is likewise actively involved in chamber music, having performed with Gidon Kremer (violin), Heinz Holliger (oboist and composer), Hartmut Höll (piano), Steven Isserlis (cello), and Pamela Frank (violin) at numerous festivals. She has devoted a significant part of her chamber career to the Arcanto Quartet, formed with violinists Antje Weithaas and Daniel Sepec and cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras. After a highly successful concert debut in Stuttgart in June 2004, they have taken the chamber music world by storm, giving debut concerts at the Beethovenhaus Bonn, Wigmore Hall London, Théâtre du Châtelet Paris, Conservatoire Royal Brussels, Alte Oper Frankfurt, Concertgebouw Amsterdam, Philharmonie Cologne, Konzerthaus Vienna, Auditorio Nacional de Musica Madrid as well as Ludwigsburger Schlossfestspiele and the festivals of Edinburgh, Helsinki and Montreux. In the 2006-2007 season, they released their first CD on the Harmonia Mundi label (Béla Bartók String Quartets Nos. 5 and 6) and went on tour in Japan and Israel for the first time. Highlights of the 2008-2009 season will include their debuts at the Tivoli Festival Copenhagen, Rheingau Musik Festival, Kunstfest Weimar, Tonhalle Zürich and Philharmonie Berlin, return visits to London, Paris, Amsterdam, Helsinki and Madrid, and the release of their second CD on Harmonia Mundi (Johannes Brahms String Quartet Op. 51 No. 1 and Piano Quintet Op. 34 with pianist Silke Avenhaus).
Tabea Zimmermann is highly committed to the 20th century repertoire, and has inspired many composers to write for the viola and has introduced many new works into the standard concert and chamber music repertoire. In April 1994, she gave a highly successful world premiere of the Sonata for Solo Viola by György Ligeti, a work composed especially for her. The subsequent premieres of this work in London, New York, Paris, Jerusalem, Amsterdam and Japan attracted great critical and public acclaim. In recent seasons, she premiered Recicanto for Viola and Orchestra by Heinz Holliger with WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln, Über die Linie IV by Wolfgang Rihm with Junge Deutsche Philharmonie, Monh by George Lentz with Orchestre Philharmonique de Luxembourg, and Notte di pasqua by Frank Michael Beyer with the Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin. Other contemporary composers who have written works for her include Sally Beamish, Josef Tal and Menachem Wiesenberg.
In the 2008-2009 season, Tabea Zimmermann features in a residency at Kunstfest Weimar, which will showcase her musical versatility in performances that include concerts with the Mozarteum Orchestra Salzburg and the Orchestre Philharmonique de Luxembourg. Further highlights of the season include concerts with the Freiburger Barockorchester, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Orchestra of the Gran Teatre del Liceu Barcelona and WDR Sinfonieorchester Köln. In the same season, she will premiere a new double concerto by Bruno Mantovani together with Antoine Tamestit.
Over 30 CD's for EMI, Teldec and Deutsche Grammophon document Tabea Zimmermann's artistry. Ars Musici released a recording of the concert where she plays L.v. Beethoven's own viola at the Beethovenhaus Bonn, accompanied by Hartmut Höll. She has also recorded a duo recital CD for Capriccio with works by Robert Schumann with Hartmut Höll. Her latest concerto releases are a live recording of Berlioz's Harold in Italy under Sir Colin Davis with London Symphony Orchestra for LSO live and a recording of Bloch's Suite for Viola and Orchestra with Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin under Steven Sloane for Capriccio. Also on the Capriccio label, a recording by Antje Weithaas and Tabea Zimmermann, with duo works by Mozart and Spohr, appeared in autumn 2006 and has been nominated for the Deutscher Schallplattenpreis. Surprisingly, her recent recording of works by J.S. Bach and Max Reger (Myrios Classics) is her first solo recording. It has already received enthusiastic reviews: "In every single bar of the recording, Tabea Zimmermann convinces the listener with her both polished and naturally-agravic interpretation. Every phrase is filled with meaning and opens or closes a musical flow. Discipline and freedom, dancelike rhythm and improvisatory gesture seem to balance themselves effortlessly." (Bayern 4 classic radio CD review).
Tabea Zimmermann was on the faculty of the Musikhochschule Saarbrücken (1987-1989) and the Hochschule für Musik Frankfurt (Frankfurt University of Music and Performing Arts) (1994-2002). Since October 2002, she has been a professor of viola and chamber music at the Hanns Eisler Academy of Music in Berlin. Her outstanding artistic achievements and contributions have garnered her numerous national and international awards, including Hessischer Kulturpreis (Hesse State Cultural Prize), Frankfurter Musikpreis (Frankfurt Music Prize) and International Prize of the Accademia Musicale Chigiana in Sienna. In January 2006, she was awarded the Paul Hindemith Prize of the City of Hanau in recognition of her outstanding contribution in promoting the music of Paul Hindemith.
From 1987 to 2000, Tabea Zimmermann regularly gave concerts in Düsseldorf, Jerusalem and Luxemburg with her late husband, the conductor David Shallon (1950-2000), father of her two sons Yuval and Jonathan. She is recently married to the American conductor Steven Sloane, their daughter Maya was born in September 2003.