Awards for Artists
Image of Eleanor Alberga
Photo: Emile Holba.

Eleanor Alberga

Eleanor Alberga (born 1949) incorporates a spectrum of genres into her work, from Eurocentric contemporary references to Jamaican and African tonal elements. Chamber music is a key feature of her work, both in the more traditional form of three string quartets and a piano quintet, as well as for more unusual line-ups. The emotional range of her language, her structural clarity and technique as an orchestrator are renowned.

Growing up in Kingston, Jamaica, Alberga decided at the age of five to become a concert pianist, and she started composing her own works for piano soon after. In 1970, she won the Royal Schools of Music Scholarship for the West Indies to study piano and singing at the Royal Academy of Music in London. As an emerging solo pianist, she composed pieces for the London Contemporary Dance Theatre and went on to become the company’s Musical Director.

Orchestral works, Sun Warrior written for the inaugural Women in Music Festival in 1990 and her dramatic adaptation of Roald Dahl’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves which premiered at the Royal Festival Hall in 1994, helped build her growing reputation. In 2001, she was awarded a NESTA Fellowship for composition.

Other seminal works include her opera Letters of a Love Betrayed, which premiered at the Royal Opera House, and Violin Concerto Number 1, commissioned by the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. Alberga’s Arise, Athena! opened the Last Night of the Proms in 2015, performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and BBC Chorus.

In 2010 Alberga and her husband Thomas Bowes founded the Arcadia Music Festival in Herefordshire.

The Paul Hamlyn Award is invaluable for me at this crucial time in my career. It presents the opportunity to record several of my chamber works and to publish and market most of my remaining back catalogue. The award gives me the financial freedom to further explore and develop composing techniques and to compose or start several new works which I have been desperately wanting to write for some time. These works include symphonies, chamber pieces, choral works, solo piano works and a new opera.
Eleanor Alberga

Examples of work

Oh Chaconne, 2015 (revised 2018)

Solo piano (Eleanor Alberga).

10 minutes duration (extract 1m 58s).

Original piece commissioned by the Yorke Dance Project for choreography to Lingua Franca by Robert Cohan 2015. Premiered at St. Laurence’s Church, Ludlow as part of the Arcadia Festival, October 2018.

The Wild Blue Yonder, 1995

Violin (Thomas Bowes) and piano (Eleanor Alberga).

12 minutes duration (extract 1m 55s).

Premiered at Wigmore Hall in February 1995 with violinist Thomas Bowes and pianist Gordon Back.

Two-Piano Suite, 1986

Two pianos, four hands.

11 minutes duration (extract 1m 36s).

Commissioned to celebrate Jamaica’s 25th year of independence. Premiered at the Royal Albert Hall with pianists Wayne Marshall and Eleanor Alberga.

Tower, 2017

Chamber orchestra and string quartet.

11 minutes duration (extract 1m 50s).

Commissioned by the London Mozart Players in memory of David Angel. Premiered at St. John the Evangelist Church, October 2017 with the Maggini Quartet under Hilary Davan Wetton.