Tabea Zimmerman was born in Lahr, Germany, on October 8, 1966. She began studies on the viola at three and on piano at five. At the Musikhochschule Freiburg, she studied with Ulrich Koch, from age 13. She later enrolled at the Mozarteum University in Salzburg where her most important teacher was Sándor Végh.
From 1982 she captured first prize in a string of prestigious competitions: the Geneva International Music Competition, Maurice Vieux Competition in Paris (1983), and the Budapest International Competition (1984). Zimmerman was quickly recognized as one of the leading German violists, performing performing with major European and Israeli orchestras and in chamber groups with such artists as Gidon Kremer, Pamela Frank, and Steven Isserlis. Zimmerman joined the faculty at the Musikhochschule Saarbrücken in 1987, serving for two years. She would later teach at the Frankfurt University of Music (1994-2002) and has been a professor at the Berlin-based Hanns Eisler Academy of Music since 2002. Meanwhile, not only was Zimmerman's solo career achieving meteoric status, but her chamber activity, especially as a member of the Arcanto Quartet, was also drawing international acclaim: the Arcanto Quartet's 2004 Stuttgart debut and later debuts at the Beethovenhaus Bonn, Wigmore Hall in London, and the Amsterdam Concertgebouw were great successes, leading to the ensemble's highly praised 2007 recording of the Bartók Fifth and Sixth quartets for Harmonia Mundi. Among Zimmerman's more acclaimed recordings as a soloist is her 2009 CD on Myrios Classics of viola sonatas by Reger and J.S. Bach, the latter transcribed from cello originals.