Great artists talk about their past recordings This month: BARRY DOUGLAS Pianist
MY FINEST MOMENT
Brahms Works for Solo Piano, Vol. 1 Barry Douglas (piano)
Chandos CHAN10716 (2012)
When I was a student I was playing a lot of late Brahms – not performing it but playing it for myself. When I learnt the First Piano Concerto, I felt very comfortable with his music and that I could be more successful with him. It was always an ambition of mine to record all Brahms’s solo works and the concertos, but I never did anything about it. When I started with RCA in the mid-’80s it was all about Russian things, because I’d just won the competition in Moscow. But there was always this thing at the back of my mind about Brahms, and then I had a series of lessons with a fantastic Russian pianist, Yevgeny Malenev, in Paris. We did a lot of Brahms together and the way he produced a sound totally inspired me. I started recording for Chandos and Ralph Cousins, the managing director, said ‘Do you want to do a complete composer?’ and I just said ‘Brahms!’ We looked around for a venue, and I was blown away by West Road Concert Hall in Cambridge. I wanted to make each disc like a piano recital so that if anybody just bought one, they could
get a flavour of the whole creative life of Brahms in one go. I’m very happy with how it turned out.
MY FONDEST MEMORY John Corigliano
Piano Concerto Barry Douglas (piano); Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra/leonard Slatkin RCA 09026 68100 2 (1996)
I’d known John Corigliano for quite a few years and then Leonard Slatkin, who was St Louis’s music director, and I decided to do his Piano Concerto. It hadn’t been recorded for a very long time, not since maybe the ’50s. John was there for all the rehearsals, and we’d eat together and we’d talk about the piece. I really wanted to make sure that we got a good performance on the recording and that he was totally happy. I’ve commissioned and done first performances before and the composer has been there, but John was so involved in the whole process, it felt like Beethoven was standing over your shoulder and giving you hints. I didn’t realise until I le and went on to my next concert how brilliant that was; I think I had to play Mozart somewhere in the US and I thought
‘god I wish Mozart could be just there to give me some hints!’ I could ask John about every phrase, anything I was uncertain about, and he was able to answer those questions. So it was a mixture of the friendship, the fact that he was guiding me through the process, through the piece; that was the incredible thing, and I still love that recording to this day.
I’D LIKE ANOTHER GO AT…
Tchaikovsky Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor, Op. 23
Barry Douglas (piano); London Symphony Orchestra/leonard Slatkin
RCA 5708-2-RC (1986)
I recorded the concertos of Tchaikovsky, and a concert fantasy, all with Leonard Slatkin. The first one, which was Concerto No. 1, was one of the last
LPS, so that’s all there was on the CD release; it was just 37 minutes. It was all arranged within two weeks of my winning in Moscow, because Michael Emerson was taking over as President of RCA Red Seal, and he signed me – I was the first artist he signed. We did it in Henry Wood
Hall in South London, and the London Symphony Orchestra changed their schedule and stepped in at the last second; so it was all very dramatic. This was the first studio recording I’d ever done in my life, so the process of doing it was enormous. I think I su ered a little bit because I was so new to the whole game of recording; all I knew was playing stu live. I would love to do it again because while it was great and very successful – actually it was in the Billboard chart for a very long time – I realise just how my view of this piece has changed enormously. In those days I would pull things apart and play it more rhapsodically, and now it’s tighter. I think my approach is cleaner now than it was in the past.
Barry Douglas’s new album is released by Chandos Records on 2 November
Early days:Barry Douglas in 1988, two years after his Tchaikovsky recording