Douglas Paterson, Principal Viola

Memories of the COE 1987 – 1994

Recalling my time in the COE, I think back to three wonderful things: the places, the music and, most of all, the people. Ferrara, Graz, Salzburg, Vienna, Berlin – to name a few of the fabulous places in which we were lucky enough to spend a significant part of our lives.

We were in Berlin as the wall was being demolished, recording Rossini with Claudio. I played my part, not just on the viola but also with hammer and chisel, and my daughter now proudly displays the chunks of concrete in her room at university. History was happening around us, but I like to think we were also an important part of that. Of course we were, and the COE continues to be a symbol of what is finest about Europe.

My concept of the ultimate Schubert was formed with Abbado, Beethoven with Harnoncourt, Sibelius with Berglund, Mozart with Vegh. These were life-changing experiences, and the list goes on – Bach with Schiff, Mendelssohn with Perahia, Schulhoff with Kremer, Zimmerman with Holliger – sometimes they were obscure, unmarketable corridors, but the COE and its partners had the courage to explore them, and the braver audiences followed.

I miss all of that, but more than anything I miss so many wonderful individuals, everyone with special qualities as musicians and as people. It is an elite group, every member hand-picked, so naturally they are special. None of this would have been possible without the extraordinary team that runs the orchestra, to whom I will always be deeply grateful.


Douglas studied the viola with Margaret Major and Peter Schidlof, and participated in masterclasses with Bruno Giuranna. He played in the European Community Youth Orchestra whilst studying Geography at UCL, later going on to postgraduate studies in Social and Political Thought at Gonville and Caius College Cambridge.
He played with the Academy of St Martin in the Fields and the English Chamber Orchestra, playing principal viola with the London Chamber Orchestra and the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. He was a member of the Schubert Ensemble from 1990 to 2018, performing and broadcasting in North, South and Central America, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and many parts of Eastern and Western Europe. The ensemble has recorded a wide range of repertoire for piano quartet and quintet, commissioned over fifty works, and was awarded the Royal Philharmonic Society prize for best chamber ensemble.
Other chamber music has included performances with Alfred Brendel, Paul Tortelier, Thomas Brandis, Imogen Cooper and Stephen Kovacevich, and appearances as guest viola with the Sacconi, Alberni and Albion Quartets.
In 1994 he took over the running of the family arable and dairy farms in Hampshire and Pembrokeshire, which consist of around 2,700 acres and 1200 head of cattle. He lives on the farm in Hampshire with his wife Miranda and daughters Emma and Louisa and has built a small concert hall, running a series of chamber music concerts in conjunction with concerts at Forde Abbey. Since the Schubert Ensemble retired in 2018 he has continued playing chamber music in various festivals and with the Zoffany Ensemble, occasionally working with and enjoying the company of some old COE friends.

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