Russian-born Viktoria Mullova is a violinist primarily known for her great virtuosity and a wide-ranging repertory that includes many crossover pieces. On the serious side, she has been praised for her interpretations of various solo works by J.S. Bach, including partitas and sonatas, as well as her readings of concertos by Brahms, Prokofiev (No. 2), Shostakovich (No. 1), and Sibelius. Her forays into more popular realms have included pieces by the Beatles, Miles Davis, and Duke Ellington. Over the years Mullova has developed a reputation for her highly individual interpretations and for her deft sense to communicate with her concert audiences. She has also grown to favor the use of historically correct instruments and practices. Mullova has made numerous recordings for many labels, including Decca, Philips, DG, ArtHaus, and Onyx.
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 TchaikovskyInternational. The following year she defected to the United States, but would eventually settle in England.
In the 1980s she made a number of highly successful recordings for Philips, including her first, with Seiji Ozawa and the Boston Symphony Orchestra, which paired the Tchaikovsky and Sibelius concertos. She soon followed that success with another (1988) containing the Prokofiev Second and Shostakovich First, with André Previn and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. By the end of that decade she had appeared to great acclaim with many of the most important orchestras and conductors in the U.S., Europe, and the Far East.
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, Ellington, George Harrison, and other non-classical figures. Among Mullova's recordings is the 2007 release on Onyx of J.S. Bach sonatas.