Born in Široka Niva, a small town in Silesia (today in the Czech Republic), Zimmermann received his first appointment as organist at the cathedral in Königgrätz (today Hradec Kralove, also in the Czech Republic). After attempts to become organist in Brno or Olomouc, he settled in Presburg (the former name of Bratislava) in 1770 – at that time the city was the capital of the Kingdom of Hungary, part of the Habsburg monarchy. At first he made a living only by writing music, which was performed with great success. And he occasionally replaced the old organist Johann Andreas Schantroch at St. Martin’s Cathedral.
In 1774 he became Kapellmeister of the orchestra of Archbishop Joseph Batiani, an important political figure in the time of Maria Theresia and Joseph II. The orchestra numbered 24 excellent musicians. They gave concerts twice a week in the winter residence or in the garden of the archbishop’s summer residence, to which all “properly dressed” citizens had access. Batiani supported music and theatre, and liked to organise various parties, balls and fireworks, hunting trips and cruises on the Danube. Zimmerman took care of their musical “setting”. Along with secular music – various chamber ensembles, symphonies, singspiels and melodramas – he also created sacred works – over 268 works, many of them well known and published in Europe at the time. However, a number of his symphonies have long been attributed to his contemporary Joseph Haydn. In 1780 Anton Zimmermann finally fulfilled his long-held dream – after the death of the titular Schantroch, he became organist at St. Martin’s Cathedral, but died unexpectedly in 1781 – aged just 40.