For the love of Brahms, Tchaikovsky and Mussorgsky

Star performer: Douglas has a special fondness for Russian composers

Star performer: Douglas has a special fondness for Russian composers  


Irish pianist Barry Douglas is one of the star performers of the Symphony Orchestra of India’s autumn season

When Irish classical pianist Barry Douglas first visited Mumbai in 2014, he decided to turn vegetarian. “I still am one, and I thank you all. This will be my third visit, as I came here in April last year,” he says. Douglas is performing two concerts as part of the ongoing Symphony Orchestra of India’s (SOI) autumn season, which began on September 11 with performances by violinist Marat Bisengaliev and pianist Roberto Prosseda.

This weekend Douglas will perform Johannes Brahms’ ‘Piano Concerto No 2’ in a recital conducted by Alexander Lazarev of Russia. Two days later, he will present solo recitals of Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s ‘The Seasons’ and Modest Mussorgsky’s ‘Pictures At An Exhibition’. He says, “The Brahms concerto is musical elegance and passion from beginning to end. Its lyricism and power stand out.” He adds that Tchaikovsky and Mussorgsky are among his greatest loves in music. “Add Brahms to that and all three will be represented in my Mumbai concerts,” he points out.

Style and sound

A gold medal winner at the International Tchaikovsky Competition in 1986, Douglas talks of his special fondness for Russian composers. He elaborates, “It began with listening to Tchaikovsky. Slowly I began hearing Sergei Rachmaninoff, Alexander Scriabin and Sergei Prokofiev. Among non-Russians, I have been deeply fascinated by Beethoven's piano concertos, and have performed them often.”

Though Douglas also learnt a bit of cello, clarinet and organ as a child, he decided to choose the piano after learning from Felicitas LeWinter for two months in his home city Belfast. He adds, “I would see many Russian pianists perform in England and France. Later, I studied from Yevgeny Malinin at the Moscow Conservatory. He taught me a lot about style and sound.”

Listening to masters

Among contemporary pianists, Douglas likes Radu Lupu, Daniel Barenboim and Martha Argerich. Has he ever felt like playing jazz? He replies, “I have been tempted, but I prefer to listen to the experts.” On attracting more youngsters to classical music, Douglas says, “It has to be done through schools. Let young people listen to the masters. This is what we do in Ireland.”

Besides the Douglas performances, other highlights of this year’s SOI Autumn Season include the Wagner Gala conducted by Mumbai-based Zane Dalal, Igor Stravinsky’s ‘Petrushka’ and Tchaikovsky’s ‘Symphony No 5’ conducted by Lazarev, besides Josef Haydn’s ‘Piano Concerto No 11’, featuring Chennai piano prodigy Lydian Nadhaswaram.

Barry Douglas will perform at the ongoing SOI season on September 22 and September 24; more details on

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Printable version | Dec 15, 2019 1:01:23 PM |

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