Isabelle van Keulen
• Born 1966
Often appears with
Isabelle van Keulen is unusual among today's leading violinists both for her willingness to promote the works of many contemporary composers and in her choice to adopt the viola as a second instrument to display her virtuosic gifts. Her concert programs often feature works by the likes of Schnittke, Gubaidulina, Lutoslawski, Pettersson, Henkemans, and a spate of other, often less-prominent modern composers. Indeed, and she has premiered a number of important compositions by them, including the 2006 Concerto for Violin and Clarinet "Noesis" by Erkki-Sven Tüür. That said, van Keulen's repertory also takes in many standards by Haydn, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Saint-Saëns, and Vieuxtemps. But it includes lesser known fare by major composers as well, such as the violin concertos of Richard Strauss and Stravinsky, the viola concertos of Walton and Bartók, and the Op. 39 quintet by Prokofiev. Van Keulen has concertized widely throughout her career and made numerous recordings for several labels, including Philips, Koch International, DG, BIS, Fidelio, CPO, and EMI.
Isabelle van Keulen was born in Mijdrecht, Holland, on December 16, 1966. She was a gifted child, giving her first concert at 10. She studied music at the Sweelinck Conservatory in Amsterdam, under Davina van Wely. Later teachers included Vladimir Spivakov, Boris Gutnikov, and Sándor Végh. During her student years she won two important competitions: the Menuhin Competition in Folkestone, England (1983) and the 1984 Eurovision Young Musician of the Year Competition, held that year in Geneva, Switzerland.
By 1990 she was recognized as one of Europe's leading young violinists. That year she began regularly appearing in concert as a violist. Her branching out continued: she founded the Isos Quartet in 1995 (for which she performs as first violinist), and in 1996 she founded the Holland-based Delft International Music Festival, which she served as director until 2006.
While her successes in the recording studio include such brilliant early efforts as her 1991 Philips CD of the Mozart Violin Concertos No. 3 and No. 5, her later forays often involved riskier fare altogether, like the 2007 CPO CD of the nearly hour-long Violin Concerto by Allan Pettersson. Van Keulen has also devoted time to teaching and serving on the faculty of the Basle Music Academy and the Royal Conservatory of the Hague. Her 2007-2008 concert schedule included a typically imaginative and daring mixture of works by Berg, Brahms, Mozart, Lutoslawski, Schnittke, and a host of others.