Barry Douglas has performed with every major international orchestra and collaborated with conductors such as Vladimir Ashkenazy, Colin Davis, Marek Janowski, Lawrence Foster, Mariss Jansons, Kurt Masur, Lorin Maazel, André Previn, Mstistlav Rostropovich, Kurt Sanderling, Leonard Slatkin, Yvegeny Svetlanov, Michael Tilson-Thomas and Yuri Temirkanov, as well as Neemi Jarvi, Krjstian Jarvi and Paavo Jarvi.
Barry was born in Belfast where he studied the piano, clarinet, cello and organ. He also conducted choirs and chamber ensembles. At the age of 16, Barry had lessons with Felicitas LeWinter, a pupil of Emil von Sauer (who was a pupil of Liszt). In London he studied at the Royal College of Music with John Barstow for four years and studied privately with Maria Curcio, herself a pupil of Arthur Schnabel, before going on to study with the Russian pianist Yvegeny Malinin in Paris.
Barry won the Gold Medal at the 1986 Tchaikovsky International Piano Competition in Moscow, the only non-Russian since Van Cliburn to have won this prestigious award outright. He had previously won the Bronze Medal at the Van Cliburn Competition in Texas in 1985 and the top prize in the Santander Paloma O'Shea competition in Spain.
Barry received the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2002 New Year's Honours List for services to music. He also received a Fellowship of the Royal College of Music where he is currently Prince Consort Professor of Piano, and an Honorary Doctorate of Music from Queens University Belfast. In September 2007 an honorary DMus was conferred on Barry by the National University of Ireland at Maynooth, and in May 2009 he received an honorary Doctorate of Music from the Uinversity of Wyoming in the US.