Dthe Dutch violinist and violist, Isabelle van Keulen, was a gifted child, giving her first concert at 10. She studied at Alkwin College in Uithoorn (1979-1984), and at Sweelinck Conservatorium 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. The latter competition was broadcast all over Europe and watched live on television by millions and was actually her breakthrough.
By 1990 Isabelle van Keulen 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. She can now look back on many years of musical diversity. Not only is it always vital for her to approach the musical score with honesty and with an extremely consious approach to interpretation, she also strives to communicate with her audiences and musical partners, allowing her to perform in an inspirational, lively and enthusiastic manner. Her versatility lies in the fact that she not only plays the violin, but as well viola with the same energy, performing chamber music in any thinkable combination and directing chamber orchestra performances. Whether in the over 20 year intense collaboration with the Dutch pianist Ronald Brautigam, concerts with mezzo Christianne Stotijn, performing/directing the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra, combining violin and viola in one appearance, founding a chamber music festival, giving master-classes or being a soloist with orchestras such as the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Berliner Philharmoniker or NHK Tokyo. Above all, being faithful to the music is her highest priority.
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, Sofia 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 and the 2008 Violin Concerto by Theo Loevendie. She has many other 20th and 21st century works in her repertoire: Concertos by Alban Berg, Henri Dutilleux, John Adams, Lera Auerbach, Oliver Knussen and Brett Dean. She also likes to perform less known works by Colin Matthews and Concertos by Krenek, Pettersson and Ferruccio Busoni. However, her repertoire also takes in many standards by Haydn, W.A. Mozart, Felix Mendelssohn, Camille Saint-Saëns, and Vieuxtemps. But it includes lesser known fare by major composers as well, such as the violin concertos of Richard Strauss and Igor Stravinsky, the viola concertos of William Walton and Béla Bartók, and the Op. 39 quintet by Prokofiev. Her 2007-2008 concert schedule included a typically imaginative and daring mixture of works by Alban Berg, Johannes Brahms, W.A. Mozart, Lutoslawski, Schnittke, and a host of others.
Isabelle 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. While her successes in the recording studio include such brilliant early efforts as her 1991 Philips CD of the W.A. Mozart's 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. Her most recent recordings are Alban Berg's Violin Concerto ("To the memory of an angel") (Chandos), a CD of violin-piano sonatas by Strauss, Nino Rota and Ottorino Respighi (Channel Classics), W.A. Mozart's Clarinet Quintet with Sharon Kam (Berlin Classics) , J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations (BWV 988) with the Leopold String Trio (Hyperion) and Prokofiev Complete Works for violin and piano with Ronald Brautigam (Challenge, December 2012). In May 2013 a high profile CD with music by Astor Piazzolla was released on Challenge Records, "Tango!", combined with DVD/Blu-ray and documentary, with the Isabelle van Keulen Ensemble.
Isabelle 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. Since autumn 2012, she is professor for violin, viola and chamber music at the Luzern University of Arts. In 2014, she got married with Rüdiger Ludwig.