Eleanor Alberga has established herself in the mainstream of British contemporary music and enjoys an international reputation as a composer. Her music has been performed by many leading orchestras, including the London Philharmonic, Royal Philharmonic, London Mozart Players and the Women's Philharmonic of San Francisco, and worldwide performances include Australia, South America, Canada, Europe and China. She was the first composer to be commissioned for the inaugural Festival of Women in Music. She was also invited to participate in the prestigious Composer to Composer Festival in Colorado, USA, and was a featured composer at the Vale of Glamorgan Festival. In 2001 she completed her violin concerto and was awarded a NESTA Fellowship. This major award enabled Alberga to further develop and experiment with her compositional techniques and ideas.
Alberga's route to composition has not been an orthodox one. Born in 1949, in Kingston, Jamaica, she began her musical career deciding, at the age of five, to be a concert pianist, and also started composing short pieces for herself. In 1970 she won the biennial Associated Board Scholarship, supporting her studies at the Royal Academy of Music, London. At various times a member of the Jamaican Folk Singers, an African dance company and later pianist and Music Director of London Contemporary Dance Theatre, she draws from a richly diverse musical background. Drama is an integral component, her music often described as tremendously exciting, and accessible.
Maggini String Quartet
Alberga is uncompromising in her efforts to strive for music that says exactly what she intends, conforming only to her own rules of composition. The Maggini Quartet who commissioned her third string quartet said: "...we felt this could only have been written by Eleanor Alberga... Eleanor's third quartet is a work of immense richness and variety of feeling, colour, rhythm and atmosphere; after some four performances we feel we have just begun to scratch the surface… The last movement remains one of the most thrilling that we have played."
Alberga's many commissions encompass orchestral works as well as a wide range of solo and chamber music. Commissioned by The Scottish Chamber Orchestra under Joseph Swensen, the Violin Concerto, written for her husband Thomas Bowes, was premiered to high critical acclaim: "The Adagio is especially effective, with the orchestra's strings shimmering in shifting patterns around lyrical lines from the soloist." The Times. Mythologies, scored for large symphony orchestra, premiered in June 2000 with Leonard Slatkin and in the United States in January 2001, was received with huge acclaim. Her dramatic adaptation of Roald Dahl's Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, again scored for large symphony orchestra, received its premiere at the Royal Festival Hall in 1994 with Franz Welser Moest and the LPO, and widespread praise included David Lister, The Independent: "rich, colourful, atmospheric and often downright alarming".
Other compositions include three string quartets for the Maggini and Smith Quartets, Dancing with the Shadow for Lontano and On a Bat's Back I do fly for Kokoro (chamber ensemble of the Bournemouth Symphony). Market of the Dead, composed for the BBC TV Sound on Film series, was broadcast in August 1999: "...wonderful - a lyrical, mystical meditation" Daily Telegraph. More recently, she received great acclaim with her Piano Quintet, premiered to a full house at the Wigmore Hall: "Material and moods underwent constant transformation ... all sounds coloured and stirred by a lively ... imagination." The Times, February 04. Tiger Dream in Forest Green, commissioned by the City of London Festival for the group Conchord, was equally well received at its premiere in June 04: "...an arresting opening... rich dream world... a visceral outburst" Evening Standard. "Alberga's writing combined both atmosphere and action including a very convincing final kill." Daily Telegraph.
Premiered in Denmark.
"..The long, flowing introduction draws a poetic landscape,..Later the story becomes more intense with an increasing rhythmic conciseness. An elegiac composition that deserves great attention. A beautiful work that was deservedly received with enthusiasm..."
Succubus Moon, 2007
Commissioned by the City of London Festival, for oboe and string quartet. Premiered in London by the oboist Alexei Ogrintchouk and later broadcast on BBC radio 3.
Letters of a love betrayed
In October 2009 her first opera LETTERS OF A LOVE BETRAYED was premiered at the Royal Opera House Linbury theatre. Commissioned by the Royal Opera House and Music Theatre Wales with Mary Plazas in the lead role. "..unashamed lyricism and unalloyed romance... Throughout, Alberga is sensitive to the South American soundscape - solemn religious phrases are juxtaposed with raunchy folk rhythms-and her orchestral writing is rich and multi-layered..." - Financial Times. "Alberga's opera is touching and certainly worth seeing,..Alberga's skill as an orchestrator and dramatist is never in doubt... Alberga only fleshes out the character of Analia. As we watch, we feel for her, we suffer with her, we rejoice. Dramatic spotlighting in this way seems to make parallels with Berg's Wozzeck. Alberga's music is at its best when it is fragmentary, its fragility echoing that of Analia. This is particularly evident in the opening funeral scene, but it enables her also to penetrate to the heart of Analia... Her aria "Once, on a lonely mountainside," heard early on, was one of the evening's true highlights." - Seen and heard International- Colin Clarke. "The musical thread is delicate, finely woven and utterly compelling. The composer has found a structure of her own, atonal but at the same time offering the warmth of harmony, with vocal lines that are perfect for singing. Occasionally, the music slips seamlessly into a world of local colour. Intoxicating South American rhythms invade the stage with a gentle, nostalgic touch, before disappearing once again beneath the waves. These episodes provide contrast, but not contradiction... Above all, the evening belonged to the music. One may encounter a new work that impresses by its invention and cleverness, but how often is one moved at first hearing, or even at second or third, by the humanity of the music... This is a remarkably beautiful work, remarkable not simply because it is the composer's first opera, but because it draws one so sensitively into a world of believable emotion - not extreme, not passionate, but deriving genuinely from the condition humane." - Musical Opinion, Michael Freyhan.
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