Karen De Pastel was born on the 27th of June, 1949 in Bellingham,Washington (USA). Her mother, Helen De Pastel, a renowned concert violinist and violin instructor, taught her voice and violin lessons at an early age. Karen later studied violin with Emanuel Zetlin and piano with Madam Berthe Poncy Jacobson at the University of Washington in Seattle, privately. After finishing high school she moved to Austria and studied at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna. Her teachers were Eva Braun-Prix (violin), organ (Dr. Rudolf Scholz), composition (Dr. Friedrich Neumann), piano (Richard Hauser) and correpetition (Robert Schollum and Franz Holetschek). She graduated with honors from all these five major subjects. Karen De Pastel also attended masterclasses for organ with Anton Heiller, Dorthy de Rooij, Tagliavini and Rössler. From 2006 till 2012 she studied conducting with the famous composer and conductor Vassil Kazandjiev in Bulgaria.
Karen De Pastel began performing as concert pianist and violinist in 1961 and was chosen to hold the position of concertmistress in several orchestras, first in Olympia and Seattle (WA, USA), later also in Vienna. In 1973 she developed a new perspective in her musical life by becoming an active concert organist, first working at the St. Othmar church in Mödling. Later she accepted the position of monastery organist and choirdirector at the Monastery Lilienfeld in 1975. After three years Karen De Pastel founded an annual Music Festival in Stift Lilienfeld, performing operas and symphonic works by great masters under her direction. Inspired by the success of these festivals, Karen De Pastel took the initiative and founded the International Summer Academy in Lilienfeld for Musik and Arts in 1982, including masterclasses for voice and all instruments. She has continuosly directed both festivals to this very day, leading them to world wide recognition and receiving multible honors for her cultural achievements.
Besides her involved responsibilities in connection with these festivals and with the direction of the music academy at the Monastery Lilienfeld, Karen De Pastel still performs concerts internationally as solo organist, violinist, pianist and conductor, also performing with such distinguished orchestras as the St. Petersburg Symphony Orchestra, the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, the Taiwan National Symphony Orchestra or the NÖ Tonkünstlerorchester, to name only a few. From 1974 till 2014 Karen De Pastel taught organ, violin and piano at the music conservatory in St. Poelten and piano, organ and theory as professor at the University for Music and Performing Arts in Vienna, regularly holding masterclasses for organ, piano and composition in several countries such as in Bulgaria (for 12 years), Iceland and USA (Interlochen, Detroit, Tacoma)
For her efforts and achievements Karen De Pastel has received multiple awards. After winning several competitions in piano, violin, viola and composition in the USA, she was awarded the Cultural Prize of the City of Lilienfeld in 1987, the Golden Cross of the Monastery Lilienfeld 1999, the Silver Cross of Lower Austria in 2005, the International Mozart Award in 2009 plus the Da Vinci Diamond 2014 and the Sir Isaac Newton Award 2017 from the IBC Cambridge, highlighted by the coveted „Würdigungspreis der NÖ Landesregierung“ 2014 and the Liese Prokop Outstanding Womens Award in 2017.
Karen De Pastel has been active as a composer from the very beginning of her musical career, her first compositions dating from school days in Olympia including a string quartet and the Concertante for violin and string orchestra. Since then she has composed concertos, chamber music, songs, sacred music for choir, cantatas and works for solo instruments and orchestra.
The „Concertante for violin and string orchestra op.2“ was written by Karen De Pastel in 1966/67 and has proven to be a most popular composition. This work received its pre-premiere on 26 February 1967 in a reduced version for violin and string quartet and its official world premiere on 01 May 1967 by the Thalia Symphony Orchestra in Seattle under Mikael Scheremetiew, presenting the 17 year old composer playing the solo violin part. This composition has enjoyed performances through many famous orchestras in several countries over the past years. The first European performance took place in 1972 at the Vienna Concert House. Also during this event Karen De Pastel performed the solo violin. But also other soloists championed this composition, for example Bojidara Kouzmanova in 1999 or Bettina Schmitt in 2002.
The sound snippet below is the beginning of the Concertante: