The German pianis and conductor, Christian Zacharias, was born in India of German parents and was taken to Germany as an infant. He began piano at age 7, but his first serious studies were at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik Karlsruhe (1960-1969), where his primary teacher was Irene Slavin. In 1969 he entered the Geneva International Piano Competition and won second prize. In 1970 he began a three-year period of study with Vlado Perlemuter in Paris. Zacharias competed in the Van Cliburn Competition in 1973, but again finished second. In 1975, however, he finally captured first prize in a major international event, the Paris-based Ravel Competition.
Christian Zacharias then launched an international career as a pianist, appearing in concerto and recitals worldwide. He made his London debut in 1976 and his USA debut as a soloist in 1979 with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. In 1981 he made his Salzburg Festival debut as a soloist in the Mozart’s Concertos K. 453. In subsequent years he toured throughout the world in a repertoire extending from Mozart to Ravel. He performs with the world’s leading conductors and the most renowned orchestras. He has performed chamber music with such partners as the Alban Berg Quartet, the Guarneri Quartet, the Leipzig String Quartet, Heinrich Schiff, and Frank Peter Zimmermann. The qualities that make Zacharias one of the world’s most celebrated pianists have also enabled him to make his mark as a conductor, festival director, musical thinker, writer, and broadcaster: integrity married to individualism; deep musical insight matched by a sure poetic instinct; a brilliance in communication; a charismatic and commanding platform manner.
By the 1990’s, Christian Zacharias established himself as one of the leading pianists of his generation, but like many of his keyboard colleagues - Vladimir Ashkenazy and Christoph Eschenbach immediately come to mind - he has established a parallel career as a conductor. Although Zacharias has not quite achieved the success on the podium as those two, he has regularly conducted leading European and American orchestras while remaining active as a recitalist, soloist, and chamber music collaborator
Despite great success throughout the 1980’s and early 1990’s in his keyboard career, Christian Zacharias decided to take up conducting in 1992. His debut was in Geneva with the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande. Further engagements in Europe followed, and in 2000 he made his American debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. Later that year he led performances with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra and National Symphony Orchestra. Since 2000, he has been Principal Conductor of the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne and with them has made a number of critically acclaimed recordings, including works by Mozart, Robert Schumann, Chopin, and Michael Haydn. He has been Principal Guest Conductor of the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra since the 2002-2003 season, and in 2009 became an "Artistic Partner" of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. He enjoys long-term relationships with many orchestras such as the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, New York Philharmonic Orchestra, and Scottish Chamber Orchestra with which he appears regularly as guest. Most recently, he has embarked on an operatic career with productions of Mozart’s opera seria La Clemenza di Tito as well as his opera buffa Le nozze di Figaro and Offenbach’s La Belle Hélène.
Christian Zacharias' concert engagements included an appearance at the July 2006 International Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival, where he performed the Robert Schumann, but this time with conductor Christoph von Dohnányi. Zacharias was appointed as artistic director for the inaugural, 2012 International Radio Orchestras’ Festival, held in Bucharest. On the occasion of his 60th birthday in 2010, the Alte Oper Frankfurt arranged an "Artist's Portrait" of Christian Zacharias, which presented him as pianist, conductor, chamber musician, and as Lied accompanist with five concerts and three films. Renowned ensembles and colleagues appeared alongside him. Particularly noteworthy, Zacharias appeared in recital in Carnegie Hall in New York in December 2011, the first German pianist to do so in over thirty years. Recitals in season 2012-2013 are among other cities in Rome, Paris and London. During the 2012-2013 season, he appears with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Hallé Orchestra (Manchester), Deutsche Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, Orquesta Nacional de España and the Orchestre National de France as conductor and pianist. He also continues his close artistic co-operation with the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne, and Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. Additionally he was appointed Artistic Director of the International Radio Orchestras’ Festival in Bucharest, which will be launched for the first time in September 2012.
Christian Zacharias has made over 50 recordings (mostly as a pianist) for several labels, including EMI, MD&G, and EuroArts, many of which were awarded international prizes. He began recording for EMI in 1976, and would, by 1997, make over 40 albums for the label, covering a broad range of repertoire, including Mozart (complete concertos and sonatas), L.v. Beethoven (complete concertos), Domenico Scarlatti (33 Sonatas, 1979), Schubert, Robert Schumann, and many others. In 1997 he began recording for the German label MD&G, and through 2007 made about a dozen CD’s, both as conductor and pianist. On some recordings he appeared in both roles: for the Chopin concertos and Robert Schumann’s A minor Concerto recordings, he conducted the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne from the keyboard. Among his other recordings with the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne, especially notable is their cycle of the complete Mozart piano concertos, which were awarded the Diapason d’Or and Choc du Monde de la Musique. Additionally, in 2010 Volume V (Piano Concertos K. 175, 246 and 488) and 2012 Volume VII (Piano Concertos K. 238, 415 and 451) has also been awarded the ECHO Classic. In August 2012, Volume IX (Piano Concertos K. 414 and 537), the last disc of this series, has been released. Another recent recording with the Orchestre de Chambre de Lausanne features Robert Schumann's Symphonies No. 2 and 4. Since 1990 he has appeared in three films: Domenico Scarlatti in Sevilla, Robert Schumann - der Dichter spricht (INA, Paris) and Zwischen Bühne und Künstlerzimmer (WDR-Arte). Among Zacharias' later recordings is the 2007 release of Schubert's A major Sonata (D. 959) and Six German Dances.
Since 2011 Christian Zacharias has been professor for orchestral performance at the Academy of Music aDrama Gothenburg.
Christian Zacharias’ career has been marked by many awards and prizes, including the 2007 Midem Classical Award "Artist of the Year" in Cannes. After having been awarded for his services to the culture in Romania in 2009, Christian Zacharias has recently been bestowed the highly honorable title of "Officier dans l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres" by the French government.