Belfast's Virtuoso Pianist
Barry Douglas and Camerata Ireland feature in the CultureNorthernIreland Podcast.
The accolades that Belfast-born pianist Barry Douglas has gathered during his career leave others of his generation in the shade.
Dr Barry Douglas OBE is also Prince Consort Professor of Piano at the Royal College of Music in London. Building on his other love, that of conducting, in 2001 Douglas established youth orchestra Camerata Ireland.
Douglas is a famous face on both the NI and world classical music scenes.
Commuting between his homes in Lurgan and Paris, Douglas continues to add new international orchestras and conductors to his impressive tally of collaborators.
Douglas has directed and recorded complete Beethoven, Mozart and Schubert Symphonies.
Born April 23, 1960, Douglas was a pupil of Methodist College and studied music in Belfast. He took lessons at the age of 16 from Felicitas LeWinter – with a direct lineage of teachers stretching back to Liszt.
Moving to London, Douglas continued to train, benefiting from the talents of John Barstow and Maria Curcio, before moving to Paris to study under Russian pianist Yvegeny Malinin.
The Russian influence paid dividends when Douglas won the gold medal in 1986 at Moscow’s prestigious Tchaikovsky International piano competition, becoming the only non-Russian since the American pianist Van Cliburn to achieve the honour.
Douglas’ debut recording was the original piano version of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition, long established as the touchstone for virtuoso pianists.
Composed in 1874, Mussorgsky’s meditation on his contemporary Viktor Hartmann’s exhibition of quintessentially Russian art, takes the form of a musical journey around ten of the pieces of art featured in the St Petersburg exhibition.
Douglas is Artistic Director of the International Piano Festival in Manchester and the Clandeboye Festival in Co Down.
His work with Camerata Ireland is instrumental in encouraging and training the younger generation of classical musicians.
Each year, the festival nominates a Young Musician of the Year, who benefits from a year-long promotional package and the opportunity to work with established names in classical music.
‘It creates synergy between the different generations,’ explains Douglas.
‘You have a young musician sitting next to a guy who has been all around the world playing music. It works as a kind of mentoring scheme which is a very important and effective aspect of our work. It’s a brilliant learning process.’
Camerata Ireland is in good company. As its joint patrons it boasts The Queen and Mary McAleese.
Queen’s University, Belfast, awarded Douglas an honorary Doctorate of Music in 1987.
Although Douglas left NI many years ago, he remains committed to classical music in the city.
'Belfast, for me, not just because I’m from here, is something very special because of the people.
'The people in Belfast are very genuine, very direct, very warm people, very hospitable. This affects the atmosphere of the whole city.'