Clandeboye festival triumph for Barry Douglas

Barry Douglas on Saturday evening at Clandeboye with his Camerata Ireland chamber orchestra
Barry Douglas on Saturday evening at Clandeboye with his Camerata Ireland chamber orchestra

The brilliant Northern Irish pianist Barry Douglas has just completed a remarkable and gruelling performance feat at his Clandeboye Festival.

On Saturday evening Douglas conducted his Camerata Ireland chamber orchestra and was solo pianist as well.

The rapturously received performance of works including Schumaann’s Piano Concerto in A minor was the culmination of the festival in the courtyard of Clandeboye estate in Co Down, on all nine days of which he performed.

Classical music experts say that most pianists would not play two concertos in the one night but that is what Douglas did in his concert with the Ulster Orchestra at the beginning of this year’s festival, for which he is artistic director.

The achievement was remarked upon the orchestra’s associate leader, Ioana Pectu-Colan, who attended a lunchtime concert the day afterwards in Clandeboye.

Douglas’s career was launched 30 years ago, when won the 1986 Tchaikovsky Piano Competition. It was a stunning achievement, because he was only the second non-Russian pianist to win the medal outright since the American Van Cliburn in 1958.

Last Wednesday, at a reception for Douglas in Clandeboye, the chair of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI) Bob Collins described that Tchaikovsky medal win as “the gift that keeps on giving”, especially in terms of Douglas’s support to young musicians on the island of Ireland.

Douglas formed Camerata Ireland in 1999, and they have toured the world.

The Clandeboye young musicians’ programme has seen over 170 young people benefit from masterclasses at Lady Dufferin’s estate, Clandeboye. Many of them also benefit from bursaries from the Flax Trust and other sponsors.

During this year’s festival Douglas played five concertos (two in that one evening with the Ulster Orchestra), five evening concerts, one world premiere (of his arrangements of Scottish and Irish music including Barry’s Reel written for him by Shetland fiddler Chris Stout), one afternoon concert, one lunchtime concert, one solo recital, and he conducted once.

After Douglas’s solo recital midway through the festival the ACNI’s head of music, Ciaran Scullion, wrote on Twitter: “What a show...Edge of the seat stuff: fully exhausted, exhilarated and inspired”

The 14th festival welcomed artists from America, Chile, England, Scotland and Ireland. Three Russian musicians, the violinist and conductor Dmitry Sitkovetsky, pianist Boris Berezovsky and soprano Maria Ostroukhova also performed. Berezovsky won the Tchaikovsky medal in 1990.