The American conductor and violinist, David Zinman, studied first violin at the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music in Ohio; then theory and composition at the University of Minnesota, earning his M.A. in 1963. During the same period he attended the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood. French conductor Pierre Monteux noticed him, leading to Zinman's enrolling in Pierre Monteux's conducting school in Maine. From 1961 to 1963 (or 1964) Zinman served as Pierre Monteux's assistant, and he considers Pierre Monteux his primary mentor.
David Zinman appeared as a guest conductor of the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra, after which the organization engaged him as its conductor, a post he held held from 1965 to 1977. His success in the Netherlands led one of the country's leading full-size orchestras, the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, to invite him to be its Music Director (Principal Conductor) from 1979 to 1982. He also conducted at the Holland Festival. In the USA, he was In the meantime he had been music adviser (1972-1974) and Music Director (1974-1985) of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra (New York). With the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, he served two years as Principal Guest Conductor (1983-1985), and became the orchestra's Music Director in 1985. During his Baltimore tenure, Zinman began to incorporate the ideas of the historically informed performance movement into performances of the L.v. Beethoven symphonies.
David Zinman distinguishing by his very broad repertoire and innovative programming, his string commitment to the performance of contemporary music, and his introduction of historically informed performance practice. In Baltimore he added a summer music festival, a discovery series of contemporary music, and Saturday morning "Casual Concerts," with commentary by the conductor. His highly acclaimed recordings on such labels as Telarc, Argo, and Sony Classics include music as traditional as the Edward Elgar symphonies and overtures and as unusual as Michael Daugherty's Metropolis Symphony, based on characters and situations from the Superman comic books.
David Zinman has helped spark interest in a new school of tonal American symphonic composition that rejected the abstruse, international sound of the 12-tone music that dominated the world of "serious" clasical music from about 1950 to 1980. This more audience-friendly music featured harmonic languages and the driving rhythms characteristic of much American popular music and jazz. Although the music has been criticized fot not being progressive, the presence of these elements thrills many in the established audience, and has helped attract a new one. Composers whose work he has promoted include Christopher Rouse, Michael Torke, Aaron Jay Kernis, and Richard Danielpour.
Upon the conclusion of his tenure as Music Director in 1998, David Zinman was named the orchestra's Conductor Laureate. However, in protest at what he saw the Baltimore orchestra's overly conservative programming in the years since his departure, Zinman resigned the title of Conductor Laureate in 2001. In 1998, Zinman was appointed Music Director of the Aspen Music Festival and School, where he founded in 2000 and directed its American Academy of Conducting until his sudden resignation in April 2010.
In 1995, David Zinman became Music Director and Chief Conductor of the Tonhalle Orchester Zürich. His programme innovations in Zürich include a series of late-night concerts, "Tonhalle Late", which combine classical music and a nightclub setting. Zinman conducted the Tonhalle Orchestra in its first-ever appearance at The Proms in 2003. His current contract with the Tonhalle Orchestra is through 2015.
Since his American debut with the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1967, David Zinman has conducted many of the world’s leading orchestras, both as a guest conductor and as music director. He has toured widely with the Baltimore and Tonhalle orchestras in Europe, North America, and the Far East. In the 2008-2009 season he appeared with the Berliner Philharmoniker, Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, Bayerischer Rundfunk Symphonieorchester, Philadelphia Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Orchestre de Paris, Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra and National Symphony Orchestra (Washington). Travels to the Far East will bring appearances with the NHK Symphony and the Hong Kong Philharmonic orchestras. In January 2006, Zinman received the Theodore Thomas Award, presented by the Conductors Guild.
David Zinman’s extensive discography of more than 130 recordings has earned numerous international honors and awards, including five Grammy awards, two Grand Prix du Disque, two Edison Prizes, the Deutsche Schallplattenpreis and a Gramophone Award. Most notable is the spectacular popularity of his 1991 recording of Henryk Górecki's Symphony No. 3, Op. 36 ("Symphony of Sorrowful Songs") with the London Sinfonietta and the soprano Dawn Upshaw for Nonesuch, which became one of the most commercially successful classical recordings ever produced. He and Tonhalle Orchestra have recorded extensively for the Arte Nova label, releasing acclaimed CD’s of the works of Richard Strauss, and Schumann. His recordings for Arte Nova of the complete L.v. Beethoven symphonies utilised the Jonathan Del Mar critical edition and received critical acclaim. As part of the Tonhalle’s ongoing L.v. Beethoven recording cycle, a two-CD set of L.v. Beethoven Overtures and the Piano Concertos with Yefim Bronfman have been released. The L.v. Beethoven Triple Concerto and Violin Concerto are now available. In 2006 Zinman and the Tonhalle Orchestra have embarked on a recording cycle of the Gustav Mahler Symphonies Nos. 1-10, completed in 2010 (RCA Red Seal). Zinman's other recordings include the soundtrack of the 1993 film version of the New York City Ballet production of The Nutcracker. In autumn 2009 Zinman and the Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich recorded an elaborate soundtrack together with composer Diego Baldenweg and music producer Lionel Vincent Baldenweg for a feature film called 180° - AMOK. This project was honoured with the prize for "best film music 2010" at the Locarno International Film Festival.
David Zinman and his wife live in New Jersey and Zürich, Switzerland.