Thomas Zehetmair

Thomas Zehetmair


• Born 1961


Thomas Zehetmair has fashioned a highly successful and broadly eclectic career. He is a virtuoso violinist of international repute, a chamber player who has founded a critically acclaimed quartet, a conductor of front-rank status, and a musician whose repertory in any role reaches from Baroque-era fare to the contemporary.

Zehetmair was born in Salzburg, Austria, on November 23, 1961. He began violin lessons at five with his parents, both talented violinists. His advanced studies were at the Salzburg Mozarteum under his father, Helmut. He took further instruction on the violin from Nathan Milstein and Max Rostal. Zehetmair worked busily at establishing an international reputation throughout the 1980s, and by 1990, he regularly appeared to acclaim at major concert venues from New York to Berlin to Tokyo. In 1993, he took on his first conducting post when he became co-director of the Camerata Bern. The following year he founded the Zehetmair Quartet, consequently dividing his time among solo performances, chamber concerts, and conducting.

His repertoire spans from Baroque-era fare, particularly Bach, up through Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven, and extending to Bartók, Schoenberg, and Berg, as well as to contemporary composers such as Heinz Holliger, Valentin Silvestrov, and Wilhelm Killmayer. In the concertos of Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven, and other pre-modern composers, Zehetmair often provides his own cadenzas, and in these works and those of Bach, he frequently appears as soloist while conducting the orchestra. He employs certain historic performance practices in early works, having studied such details with Nikolaus Harnoncourt. In the chamber realm, he has collaborated with world-class musicians, including pianists Alfred Brendel and Cyprien Katsaris, and violinist Gidon Kremer. As a soloist, Zehetmair has appeared with leading orchestras across the globe, including the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonic orchestras, the Dresden State, NHK (Tokyo), Cleveland, and Philadelphia orchestras, and the Boston Symphony.

Zehetmair was the music director of the Northern Sinfonia from 2002-2014, after which he was named conductor laureate. He was the music director of the Orchestre de Chambre de Paris from 2012-2014. In 2016, he became the principal conductor of the Musikkollegium Winterthur, and the following year, the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra announced his appointment as chief conductor beginning in 2019.

He has made numerous recordings spread over a variety of labels, including EMI, Philips, Teldec, and Warner Classics. Among these are the 2005 Berlin Classics release of Vivaldi's Four Seasons, with the Camerata Bern, and the 2007 Avie recording of the Schumann Fourth Symphony and Brahms Violin Concerto, where Zehetmair appears with the Northern Sinfonia both as soloist (in the Brahms) and conductor. In 2019, he issued an album of Bach's solo sonatas and partitas for violin on ECM New Series.