Arabella Steinbacher was born in Munich, Germany, on November 14, 1981. Her Japanese-born mother was a singer and her German father once served as répétiteur at the Bavarian State Opera. Steinbacher was extremely precocious, studying violin from age three. From age nine she received instruction from Ana Chumachenko at the Munich Academy of Music.
Steinbacher was later mentored by Ivry Gitlis and aided by a scholarship from the Anne-Sophie Mutter Foundation (2001-2005). After her 2004 debut in Paris offers to perform around the world flooded in. Her first recording, the Khachaturian Violin Concerto, was issued that same year on Orfeo. In both 2005 and 2006 she received the German Record Critics Awards, the first for her Orfeo disc of the Milhaud violin concertos and the second for her CD of Shostakovich concertos, also on Orfeo. Steinbacher's June 2006 recital debut in New York received high praise from The New York Times, and her major American orchestral debut the following year with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the Sibelius concerto drew raves from the Chicago Tribune. Meanwhile, Steinbacher continued to draw acclaim for her recordings: her 2006 Violino Latino (Orfeo), which contained works by Piazzolla, Ponce, de Falla, and others, deftly conveyed her idiomatic grasp of Latin music.