As a violinist, Poppen was awarded first prize in the Kocian Violin Competition age 14. He studied the violin with Kurt Schäffer at the Robert Schumann Institute, later with Oskar Schumsky, Nathan Milstein, and Joseph Gingold.
In 1978, Poppen founded the Cherubini Quartet, winning in 1981 at the international string quartet competition in Evian. He was the conductor of the chamber orchestra Detmolder Kammerorchester from 1989 to 1995. He then succeeded Hans Stadlmair as the conductor and artistic director of the Münchener Kammerorchester. In collaboration with ECM he recorded with the orchestra contemporary music of composers such as Karl Amadeus Hartmann, Tigran Mansurian, Anton Webern, Sofia Gubaidulina, Giacinto Scelsi, Valentin Silvestrov and Barry Guy. As a violinist, he recorded in 2000 works of Johann Sebastian Bach with the Hilliard Ensemble. The title Morimur (We shall die) stands for a juxtaposition of Bach's Partita for Violin No. 2, which is related to Easter according to scholar Helga Thoene, and interspersed chorales, some from his cantatas and Passions. The Partita's final Ciaconna is performed twice, once with the chorale which Bach may have had in mind, along with the violin music. The recording was described as
... one of those increasingly rare things – a moving and intelligently programmed disc that is effective from beginning to end.
From 2006 Poppen has been the conductor of the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Saarbrücken, which was, together with the Rundfunkorchester Kaiserslautern, named Deutsche Radio Philharmonie Saarbrücken Kaiserslautern in 2007. In 2007 he conducted in the Herkulessaal the premiere of Wilhelm Killmayer's Dithyramben for orchestra with the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks.
In 1988 Poppen was appointed professor of violin and chamber music at the Hochschule für Musik Detmold. He taught at the Hochschule für Musik "Hanns Eisler" in Berlin from 1995 and was its director from 1996 to 2000. He has been professor for violin and chamber music at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater München since 2003.
In 2012-13 Poppen taught at the DO School in Hamburg as part of a Fellowship program for young social entrepreneurs. He worked with the Fellows to produce a multicultural concert involving local youth groups, and currently remains involved with the program in role of an advisor. 
- 2002 Prize of the Christoph und Stephan Kaske Foundation, with the Münchener Kammerorchester
- 2010 Kunstpreis des Saarlandes 
- Background Information ECM 2001
- "Sofia Gubaidulina". ECM. 2008.
- Tyran Grillo (17 July 2010). "Barry Guy: Folio (ECM New Series 1931)". ECM.
- "Morimur - Bach / Christoph Poppen, Hilliard Ensemble". Gramophone. 2001.
- Christoph Poppen - Professor für Violine und Kammermusik Hochschule für Musik und Theater München 2005
- Schulz, Tom. "D&F Academy: Wir haben einen Traum". Retrieved 18 February 2014.
- "The DO School - Music Challenge". Retrieved 18 February 2014.
- Auszeichnung an Christoph Poppen Deutsche Radiophilharmonie
- Christoph Poppen website
- Literature by and about Christoph Poppen in the German National Library catalogue
- Christoph Poppen Deutsche Radiophilharmonie
- Christoph Poppen PR2, agent
- Christoph Poppen (Conductor, Baroque Violin) bach-cantatas.com
- Interview mit dem Dirigenten Christoph Poppen arte.tv 2007 (German)