Chance encounters can change your life. That’s what happened to me when I encountered Barry Douglas, almost by accident.
Barry Douglas is a world-class pianist from Ireland, who skyrocketed to fame in 1986 when he captured the gold medal at the Tchaikovsky piano competition. He was the first non-Russian (in those final Cold War days) to capture the award outright since Van Cliburn had done it in the 1950’s. Since then, he has toured the world, appearing with major orchestras and in 1999, forming his own orchestra, Camerata Ireland.
I had no idea who Barry Douglas was in 2008 when Chuck and I booked a vacation in Ireland. Since we were going to be in Dublin, I began looking around for theater or concerts we could attend, and saw a listing for Camerata Ireland, playing at Castletown House, a gorgeous Georgian estate just outside Dublin. We secured tickets, and looked forward to a pleasant evening.
What I wasn’t prepared for was the moment of what I can only call a sublime experience. In the concert, Barry Douglas performed three of Beethoven’s five piano concertos (2, 4, and 5 – the “Emporer”), all the while conducting from the piano. The orchestra was superbly disciplined, and the whole evening was magical.
Somewhere in the middle of the Fourth concerto, I remember thinking, “I have so missed music in my life, and whatever I do going forward, music must be a part of it.” Part of the fruit of that night is my passion for people in midlife returning to music, and this blog.
Barry Douglas tours the U.S. with some regularity. He has appeared in the last few months in Alabama, Columbus, and Nashville. He has dates this spring in Atlanta and in Vancouver. He is more and more in demand as a conductor, as well as a performer at the piano.
Since that night in Ireland, Chuck and I have had the occasion to meet Barry twice. I interviewed him by phone in January, 2009, just before Chuck and I attended a recital he gave in Toronto. He invited us to spend time with him following the recital, and we found him most gracious, charming, and grounded. He and his family live in Paris, and its clear that despite his many travels, his family is central in his life. The next day, while waiting out a snowstorm, we attended a master class he led at the Royal Conservatory in Toronto, and I picked up a number of points that have helped my own piano playing.
We saw Barry Douglas perform Rachmaninoff’s Third Piano Concerto in Columbus in the fall, and in January of this year, met him briefly again after he performed Penderecki’s moving “Resurrection” piano concerto with the Nashville Symphony.
Here are some links to learn more about this gifted musician:
You can find all kinds of video clips of Barry’s performances on You Tube by searching for Barry Douglas. The clip of his performance at the Tchaikovsky competition, “The Great Gates of Kiev” from Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” is a triumph.
An interview from Cincinnati with Barry Douglas about Penderecki’s “Resurrection” Piano Concerto, written in response to 9/11/2001.