Jean-Jacques Kantorow was born in Nice, France, but is of Russian extraction. He studied the violin at the conservatoires of Nice and (from the age of 13) Paris, where his teachers included René Benedetti and where, after only a year, he obtained the first prize for violin playing. Jean-Jacques Kantorow has performed as a soloist on all continents with musicians as Gidon Kremer, Krystian Zimerman, Paul Tortelier and others.
As a conductor, he has held the post of artistic director with several orchestras, including the Ensemble orchestral de Paris, the Auvergne Chamber Orchestra, the Tapiola Sinfonietta (1993–2000), with which he continues to collaborate, as well as the Granada City Orchestra (2004–08). He has also been principal guest conductor of the Lausanne Chamber Orchestra. Jean-Jacques Kantorow has made over 160 recordings, including a close collaboration with BIS which has resulted in a number of highly acclaimed discs of the music of Camille Saint-Saëns.