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Born in Vilnius, he emigrated in 1978 with his musician parents to Austria. In 1983, he entered the Konservatorium Wien and studied violin in the Soviet tradition with Boris Kuschnir, while also receiving private lessons from Pinchas Zukerman. His career as a child prodigy began with his first public concert in 1984.
In 1988, he took the title of Eurovision Young Musician of the Year, which led to his being invited to appear at the Berlin Festival with conductor Lorin Maazel and to his becoming the youngest soloist to ever play with the Vienna Philharmonic, under the direction of Riccardo Muti.
In the development of his career, Rachlin has enjoyed collaborations with some of the most illustrious maestros in Europe and the United States, including Vladimir Ashkenazy, Bernard Haitink, James Levine, Zubin Mehta, and André Previn.
In 2000, he joined Rostropovich and Yuri Bashmet, among others, in the premiere of Krzysztof Penderecki's Sextet. The same year, Rachlin also founded his own music festival in Dubrovnik, "Julian Rachlin and Friends". Since 2000, he has also played the concerto and chamber repertoire for the viola.
Besides performing violin concertos, Rachlin also performs chamber music with such artists as Martha Argerich, Itamar Golan, Natalia Gutman, Gidon Kremer, Mischa Maisky, and used to perform with Mstislav Rostropovich.
Rachlin's former girlfriend was the renowned Dutch violinist Janine Jansen.
He performed with The Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra (MPO)on April, 2009.
In 2011, he declined the invitation to play in the Miyazaki Prefecture due to radiation concerns in Japan from Fukushima I nuclear accidents. However, Miyazaki Prefecture as well as much of Western part of Japan were not affected by the recent disasters or radiation. Proceeds from the concert went to the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami Victim.