I first came across Barry Douglas through my husband who plays in his chamber orchestra, Camerata Ireland. Barry is one of the most incredible concert pianists out there with a biog that most of us could only dream of. He’s also a great socialite and banishes all the myths about soloists who can’t talk to us normal folk. What a guy.
So Barry, where can we start? Do you like garlic snails (being an inhabitant of Paris)?
No I’m not a great fan though I have tried them a few times. I like riz de veau which I thought I’d never like- but I like small portions.
What’s the weirdest complement someone’s ever given you?
“You have really made me rethink how I view that piece and I used to like it a lot”
“Can I touch your hand to get some of your power!!??”
Which audiences give you the best atmosphere to play in?
All audiences are human (usually!!) and so it is really down to the hall, time of year and the mood everyone is in – including me!
At what age did you feel the drive to dedicate your life to the piano? Or was it just the way it turned out?
I was 16 and a pupil of a pupil of Liszt, Felicitas LeWinter from Vienna inspired me to concentrate and practice and stop mucking around with the clarinet
Are there any unusual piano pieces/composers you’ve come across that the world doesn’t know too much about?
I have just recorded a piano concerto by Nino Rota-it’s coming out next month on Chandos – he wrote the music for “the Godfather” – this music is divine and gorgeous.
Have you ever improvised a cadenza?
Yes a few times- but I decided to write them down as they seemed to work very well – they are all for Mozart Piano Concertos
After living the life of several pianists’ dreams, what aspirations do you have for the future?
I would like to expand my festivals in Ireland- teach a little more- at the moment I do 4 days a year in Dublin Conservatory and one day in Royal College of Music London. I could take a few more days. I would like to record all the Beethoven piano Sonatas- I have done the Beethoven Concertos with Camerata Ireland and that worked very well. I will be recording the complete Brahms and Schubert for Chandos and so that is extremely exciting. I have a Celtic project which is a kind of spectacle also that I’m developing at the moment- it will tour very extensively if all goes well.
Do you ever feel the need to pull out the old Hanon?
Never- I worked very hard as a teenager and your fingers never forget – I like to play challenging music – but in a sense all great music is a challenge if you really aim to uncover it’s secrets. I’m playing all Rachmaninov Concertos next month in S America in 2 concerts- I have a new piece at the Proms this year– Kevin Volans wrote it for me
What music is best suited to morning piano playing?
Bach and Chopin
Your speciality seems to be the big Russian piano concertos, but I know from your work with your own orchestra, Camerata Ireland, that you’re quite the master of the likes of Beethoven and Mozart too – how many piano concertos do you have rattling around upstairs? Do you have to remind yourself of the notes every so often?
I have 40 or so I could play tonight or tomorrow – I am very lucky with my memory. Often I go back to the notes and see what I can change or develop to make it fresher. I like to change repertoire often so it never becomes a routine
I see you have a Bartok piano concerto performance coming up. Do you find yourself in different moods whilst performing depending on the style/personality of the composer/music?
Yes – good question- I do have to try and be a slightly different person/musician- it’s like acting I guess. But at the heart of it all is to make sure the preparation is done and you are focused.
And finally, do you prefer black or white notes?
They feel different and so I need and like them both. I like the narrowness and height of the black keys – white keys used to be nicer to touch when they were ivory- but they don’t allow ivory anymore and so it is a king of composite plastic- sometimes slippery!
For lots more information please visit Barry’s website at http://www.barry-douglas.com/