Tabea Zimmermann

Tabea Zimmermann
Zimmermann in 2007
Born (1966-10-08) 8 October 1966 (age 57)
AwardsErnst von Siemens Music Prize

Tabea Zimmermann (born 8 October 1966) is a German violist who has performed internationally, both as a soloist and a chamber musician. She has been artist in residence of the Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic, and the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra. In 2004, Zimmermann founded the Arcanto Quartet, a string quartet that performed until 2016. Several composers have written music for her, including György Ligeti (the Viola Sonata), and she has made her own version of Bartók's Viola Concerto from the composer's sketches.

Zimmermann is a professor at the Frankfurt University of Music and Performing Arts and gives master classes at the Kronberg Academy and elsewhere. Her awards include the 2020 Ernst von Siemens Music Prize.

Life and career

Born in Lahr, Baden-Württemberg, Zimmermann began learning the viola at age three, and commenced piano studies at age five. At age 13, she studied viola with Ulrich Koch at the Freiburg Conservatory and progressed to study with Sándor Végh at the Mozarteum of Salzburg. She soon gained notice in international competitions, winning first prizes in Geneva (1982), Budapest (1984), and the Maurice Vieux International Viola Competition in Paris (1983), for which she was awarded an instrument by contemporary luthier Étienne Vatelot (1980). Since 2019, she has been playing an instrument built for her by Patrick Robin.

As a soloist, Zimmermann has performed with major orchestra such as the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic, the BBC Philharmonic, and the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, and with conductors including Kurt Masur, Bernard Haitink, and Nikolaus Harnoncourt. In 1992 she made her debut with the Berlin Philharmonic, performing Bartók's Viola Concerto. She often performed Tibor Serly's version of the piece, but after studying the original sketches in 1994, she prepared her own version. She played her version in the final concert of the 2023 Kronberg Festival at the Casals Forum, with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony conducted by Christoph Eschenbach.

Zimmermann has been artist in residence with the Concertgebouw Orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic, and in the 2022/23 season the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra.

Zimmermann is also devoted to chamber music, having performed with Gidon Kremer, Lars Vogt, Hartmut Höll, Steven Isserlis, Javier Perianes, and Pamela Frank at numerous festivals. In 2004, she founded the Arcanto Quartet with Antje Weithaas, Daniel Sepec [nl], and Jean-Guihen Queyras. The string quartet existed until 2016. She has also collaborated with the Ensemble Resonanz.

Committed to 20th- and 21st-century repertoire, Zimmermann premiered Ligeti's Viola Sonata, which was written for her, on 23 April 1994 in Gütersloh. Other composers who have written works for her include Heinz Holliger, Wolfgang Rihm, Georges Lentz, Bruno Mantovani, Sally Beamish, Enno Poppe, and Josef Tal.


Zimmermann was on the faculty of the Saarbrücken Music Academy from 1987 to 1989, and taught at the Frankfurt University of Music and Performing Arts from 1994 to 2002. She then became professor of viola and chamber music at the Hochschule für Musik Hanns Eisler Berlin until 2023, where Antoine Tamestit was one of her students. Other students of hers include Amihai Grosz and Pauline Sachse. As of 2023, Zimmermann is again a professor of viola and chamber music in Frankfurt. She gives masterclasses at the Kronberg Academy.

Other activities

Zimmermann chairs the Foundation Board of the Ernst von Siemens Foundation. She is president of the Hindemith Foundation, based in Blonay, Switzerland, and has chaired the Bonn Beethoven House since 2013.


Zimmermann has won numerous national and international awards, including the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize, the Frankfurter Musikpreis, the Hessian Cultural Prize, the Rheingau Musikpreis, the Hindemith Prize of the City of Hanau, the International Classical Music Awards (ICMA) 2017, and the International Prize of the Chigiana Music Academy of Siena. She received the Officer's Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in 2018. With the prize money of €250.000 from the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize, Zimmermann founded the David Shallon Foundation.

Personal life

Zimmermann is the widow of conductor David Shallon. Her second husband was the American conductor Steven Sloane. She has three children.


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