Mullova was born in Moscow on November 27, 1959. She studied music at the Central Music School of Moscow, where her most important teacher was Volodar Bronin. She later studied with violin virtuoso Leonid Kogan
at the Moscow Conservatory.
Mullova had a meteoric rise owing to spectacular wins at two major competitions: in 1980 she took first prize at the Jean Sibelius
International Violin Competition and two years later won the Tchaikovsky
International. The following year she defected to the United States, but would eventually settle in England.
In 1994 she founded the Mullova Chamber Ensemble, a group that quickly achieved international renown. After Mullova married her husband, cellist Matthew Barley
, she developed an interest, through him, in jazz and other popular styles of music. In 2000, taking inspiration from a series of popular music concerts she gave on tour, Mullova made a recording for Philips entitled Through the Looking Glass, on which she performed music by Davis
, George Harrison, and other non-classical figures. Among Mullova's recordings is the 2007 release on Onyx of J.S. Bach