Douglas has given recitals throughout the world and performed concertos with many of the world's leading orchestras. Later in his career, he has devoted himself more to conducting as founder and director of Camerata Ireland.
Douglas was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland, on April 23, 1960. In his youth, he studied piano, organ, clarinet, and cello. He later enrolled at the Royal College of Music in London, studying piano with John Barstow. He also studied with Maria Curcio in London and Yevgeny Malinin in Paris. The road to Douglas' victory at the 1986 Tchaikovsky Competition contained a few minor bumps: he had won second prize at the 1980 Santander Piano Competition in Spain (no first prize awarded), second again at the Israel-based 1983 Rubinstein Competition, and third prize at the 1985 Van Cliburn Competition. In 1987, Douglas issued his debut recordings, the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto and a solo disc of Mussorgsky's Pictures at an Exhibition and works of Liszt, both for RCA. He possesses a vast repertoire on the piano that takes in works by Beethoven, Brahms, Liszt, Tchaikovsky, Mussorgsky, Debussy, Rachmaninov, Corigliano, and scores of others. He has appeared at many of the major concert venues in Europe, Asia, and the U.S., including Carnegie Hall in 1988. Among the orchestras he's performed with are the London, Cincinnati, and Melbourne Symphonies, and the Royal Liverpool and Hong Kong Philharmonics.
In 1999, Douglas founded Camerata Ireland. He continues to serve as the music director of the ensemble, sometimes leading them in concert from the keyboard. One of the goals for Douglas and the Camerata Ireland is the promotion of peace and cooperation between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland through music education. He has also served as the artistic director of the Manchester International Piano Festival, Clandeboye International Festival, and the Camerata Ireland at Castletown Series Festival.
Throughout the 1990s, Douglas made a string of successful recordings, which included an acclaimed 1991 disc of the Seventh Sonata and other works by Prokofiev, for RCA. He has also recorded for Sony, Satirino, and Naxos. Since 2011, Douglas has recorded for the Chandos label, on which he issued two albums in 2019, his fourth volume of solo works by Schubert and the second volume of his Tchaikovsky Plus One series.
In 2002, Douglas was awarded an Officer of the Order of the British Empire and later on was given numerous citations and awards, including a 2009 honorary doctorate from the University of Wyoming. Douglas is a visiting professor and offers master classes at the Royal College of Music.