Since the mid-'80s, Frank Peter Zimmermann has been recognized as one of the leading violinists, not for the usual reasons alone -- formidable technical skills and interpretive acumen -- but also for his ability to adapt his style to accommodate the demands of a broad range of repertory, from Bach to contemporary composers. He has expressed a special love for the music of Mozart and Prokofiev, two composers of obviously disparate styles whose works Zimmermann has performed to international acclaim. He has also played the standard concertos of Beethoven, Brahms, and Stravinsky, as well as solo and chamber works by Bach, Debussy, and Ysaÿe. In addition, Zimmermann has delved into more adventurous fare, taking on works by Ligeti, Matthias Pintscher, and other contemporary composers. Zimmermann and pianist Martin Helmchen issued the second volume of their Beethoven violin sonata cycle on the BIS label in 2021.
Zimmermann was born in Duisburg, Germany, on February 27, 1965. He was extremely precocious: at five years of age, he began playing the violin, and at ten, gave his first orchestral concert playing the Mozart G major Concerto, K. 216. In 1976, he won the Youth Makes Music Competition in Germany. His roster of teachers is impressive: Valery Gradov at Folkwang Hochschule in Essen, Saschko Gawriloff at the Berlin Staatliche Hochschule, and Herman Krebbers in private studies in Amsterdam. In 1983, Zimmermann launched his career, performing in numerous critically acclaimed concerts across Germany and parts of Europe. He made his U.S. debut the following year with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and over the next several seasons appeared with the Boston, Chicago, and National Symphony Orchestras. He also gave concerts in South America, Japan, and Australia.
In the early years of his career, Zimmermann regularly collaborated in chamber works with pianist Alexander Lonquich, but since 1998, he has regularly performed with pianist Enrico Pace. In the new century, Zimmermann has turned more conspicuously to contemporary music, recording the Ligeti Violin Concerto for Teldec (2002) and premiering Matthias Pintscher's En Sourdine in 2003, with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra under conductor Peter Eötvös. In 2010, Zimmermann teamed with violist Antoine Tamestit and cellist Christian Poltéra to form Trio Zimmermann, which has become a staple at European concert halls and festivals. Zimmermann and pianist Martin Helmchen toured Europe performing Beethoven's violin sonatas, either in partial or complete, for the 250th Anniversary of the composer's birth.
Zimmermann has made numerous recordings for many labels, including EMI, Sony, and Teldec. A collaborative effort with cellist Heinrich Schiff on ECM from 2006 contains chamber works for violin and cello by Bach, Honegger, Martinu, Pintscher, and Ravel. Zimmermann's collaboration with Helmchen resulted in a BIS cycle of Beethoven's violin sonatas, issuing the first volume in 2020 and the second in 2021.
© Robert Cummings /TiVo