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For Tabea Zimmermann, 2020 represents a new flowering in her musical life. Amanda Holloway speaks to the German violist about directing her final Beethoven-Woche, her new recording projects, expanding the viola repertoire and imparting her wisdom to the next generation
She is known worldwide as a virtuosic soloist, a generous chamber musician, a revered teacher and a tireless promoter of classical music. But the 2019–20 season may be Tabea Zimmermann’s most illustrious year yet, as she directs a major Beethoven celebration in Bonn, appears as artist-in-residence with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Amsterdam, and releases a variety of new recordings – from solo Bach and György Kurtág to music by Spanish and South American composers. In recognition of her quiet but powerful influence on the world of music, she has just won the €250,000 Ernst von Siemens Music Prize, whose previous winners have included Menuhin and Stockhausen. Zimmermann is the first viola player and only the third female to win the award in its 47-year history. Naturally, she says, she is delighted with the prize, but not so much with the ‘woman’ angle. ‘Of course, that’s an important fact, but I don’t want to be given a prize for being a woman!’ There’s no hint of tokenism in the glowing citation from the judges, who singled out ‘her incorruptible musicianship… her uncompromising standards of quality, the new life she has breathed into the viola… her dedication to contemporary music… and her incredible contribution to education’.
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