Zimmermann was born in Lahr, Germany, on October 8, 1966. She began studies on the viola at three and the piano at five. At the Musikhochschule Freiburg, she studied with Ulrich Koch, from age 13. She later enrolled at the Mozarteum University in Salzburg, where her most important teacher was Sándor Végh. From 1982, she captured first prize in a string of prestigious competitions: the Geneva International Music Competition, the Maurice Vieux Competition in Paris (1983), and the Budapest International Competition (1984).
Zimmermann was quickly recognized as one of the leading German violists, performing with major European and Israeli orchestras, including the Berlin Philharmonic, Leipzig Gewandhaus, and Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, and in chamber groups with such artists as Gidon Kremer, Pamela Frank, and Steven Isserlis. While her solo career achieved meteoric status, so did her chamber activity, especially as a member of the Arcanto Quartet, drawing international acclaim: the Arcanto Quartet's 2004 Stuttgart debut and later debuts at the Beethovenhaus Bonn, Wigmore Hall in London, and the Amsterdam Concertgebouw were great successes, leading to the ensemble's highly praised 2007 recording of the Bartók Fifth and Sixth quartets for Harmonia Mundi.
Zimmermann has performed major works specifically written for her, such as the Ligeti Sonata for solo viola (premiered 1994) and other pieces by Heinz Holliger, Wolfgang Rihm, Sally Beamish, and Josef Tal. Her repertory is not only rich in contemporary works but takes in music from most periods, including works by J.S. Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Richard Strauss, and countless others. She has made dozens of recordings, spread over many labels, including Capriccio, Deutsche Grammophon, EMI, Harmonia Mundi, and Naxos, among others. Her more acclaimed recordings as a soloist include her 2009 Myrios Classics album of viola sonatas by Reger and J.S. Bach (the latter transcribed from cello originals). In 2020, Zimmermann was accompanied by Javier Perianes on the Harmonia Mundi album Cantilena. Also that year, Zimmermann was awarded the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize and served as the artist in residence with the Berlin Philharmonic for the 2020-2021 season.
Zimmermann joined the faculty at the Musikhochschule Saarbrücken in 1987, serving for two years. She would later teach at the Frankfurt University of Music (1994-2002) and has been a professor at the Berlin-based Hanns Eisler Academy of Music since 2002. ~ Robert Cummings & Keith Finke, Rovi
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