After violin studies at Oberlin Conservatory, Zinman studied theory and composition at the University of Minnesota, earning his M.A. in 1963. He took up conducting at Tanglewood and from 1958 to 1962 worked in Maine with Pierre Monteux; he served as Monteux's assistant from 1961 to 1964.
Career in the Netherlands
Zinman held the post of tweede dirigent (second conductor) of the Netherlands Chamber Orchestra from 1965 to 1977 and was principal conductor of the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra from 1979 to 1982.
In the United States
Zinman served as music director of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra from 1974 to 1985, during the last two years of which tenure he also was principal guest conductor of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. He became music director in Baltimore in 1985. There he made several recordings for Telarc and Argo and Sony, toured widely, and began to implement ideas from the historically-informed-performance movement in interpretations of the Beethoven symphonies. Upon relinquishing that Baltimore post in 1998, Zinman was named the orchestra's conductor laureate. But he renounced this title three years later in protest at what he saw as the orchestra's increasingly conservative programming.
In 1998 Zinman worked as music director of the Ojai Music Festival alongside pianist Mitsuko Uchida. That same year he was appointed music director of the Aspen Music Festival and School, where he founded and directed its American Academy of Conducting until his sudden resignation in April 2010.
Tenure in Switzerland
Zinman became music director of the Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich in 1995. His innovative programming with that orchestra includes a series of late-night concerts, "Tonhalle Late", which combine classical music and a nightclub setting. His recordings for Arte Nova of the complete Beethoven symphonies were based on the new Jonathan Del Mar critical edition and was acclaimed by critics. He has subsequently recorded Beethoven overtures and concertos with the Tonhalle. He conducted the Tonhalle Orchestra in its first-ever appearance at The Proms in 2003. He concluded his Tonhalle music directorship on July 21, 2014 with a concert at The Proms.
Zinman conducted the soundtrack of the 1993 film of the New York City Ballet production of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker. In 2009 he led the Tonhalle-Orchester Zürich in the filmscore 180°: If Your World Is Suddenly Upside-Down, composed by Diego Baldenweg with Nora Baldenweg & Lionel Baldenweg; this won the Suisa prize for "Best Original Score" at the Locarno Film Festival in 2010.
In 2006 he received the Theodore Thomas Award presented by the Conductors' Guild.
- Slonimsky, Nicolas (1978). "Zinman, David". Baker's Biographical dictionary of musicians (6th ed.). New York: Schirmer Books. p. 1949. ISBN 0-02-870240-9.
- Cantrell, Scott (May 7, 2004). "Preaching to the Unconverted". The New York Times. Retrieved April 19, 2009.
- Tommasini, Anthony (May 7, 2003). "Setting Out With Energy Along the Road Most Taken". The New York Times. Retrieved April 19, 2009.
- MacMillan, Kyle (July 25, 2007). "Learning to wield a mean baton". The Denver Post. Retrieved August 10, 2007.
- Elliott, Susan (April 11, 2010). "David Zinman quits Aspen Music Festival". Musical America. Retrieved April 10, 2010.
- Midgette, Anne (May 7, 2004). "Carnegie Program Shows The Conservative Side Of a New-Music Man". The New York Times. Retrieved April 19, 2009.
- Greenfield, Edward (January 14, 2005). "Beethoven: Complete Overtures, Zurich Tonhalle Orch/ Zinman". The Guardian. Retrieved April 19, 2009.
- Clements, Andrew (April 28, 2006). "Beethoven: Violin Concerto; Two Romances, Tetzlaff/ZTO/Zinman". The Guardian. Retrieved April 19, 2009.
- Clements, Andrew (September 22, 2006). "Beethoven: Piano Concerto No 5; Choral Fantasy (Meeresstille und glückliche Fahrt), Bronfman/ Swiss Chamber Choir/ Zurich Tonhalle Orchestra/ Zinman". The Guardian. Retrieved April 19, 2009.
- Jeal, Erica (September 13, 2003). "Proms 70 and 71: Musiciens du Louvre; Tonhalle Orchestra (Royal Albert Hall, London)". The Guardian. Retrieved April 19, 2009.
- Ashley, Tim (July 22, 2014). "Prom 5: Tonhalle Orchestra Zürich review – sadness and celebration". The Guardian. Retrieved July 25, 2014.
- Reel Music
- The Baldenweg siblings honoured in Locarno
- White, Michael (July 18, 2014). "After a Run of 19 Years, Passing the Baton". New York Times. Retrieved July 25, 2014.
- David Zinman official website
- David Zinman official Blog
- David Zinman at Art of the States
- David Zinman at AllMusic
- David Zinman at Sony Classical
- Works by or about David Zinman in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
- "David Zinman collected news and commentary". The New York Times.
- Interview with David Zinman, February 11, 2000
Elgar- Enigma Variations/Cockaigne Overture (Baltimore Symphony Orchestra) Telarc 1989