Approaches to teaching ensembles: connecting diverse styles and instrumental techniques


Monday, 25th March, 11am-11:30am

My lecture focuses on the methodology of teaching contemporary and new music repertoire in chamber music lessons. Based on my pedagogical experience, coaching students in playing contemporary pieces, spanning from the late twentieth century to the present, encourages them to challenge their listening and practice habits. It broadens the horizons of artistic expression and introduces elements of improvisation into their learning experience. Moreover, discovering integral approaches to instrumental technique and compositional concepts stimulates a deeper understanding of the history of string instruments.

During my presentation, I will discuss various teaching strategies employed in ensemble sessions for working on contemporary compositions. I will share my experience in the following areas: learning new skills, such as ‘extended’ techniques, and integrating the physicality of creating new textures and rhythms with ‘traditional’ technique; approaches to improvisation, developing listening, and communication skills within the group; the concepts and practice of collaboration with composers; experimenting with multimedia practice and exploring elements of non-classical musical styles. Additionally, I will delve into and provide examples of contemporary repertoire suitable for various levels and abilities. These strategies aim to bring together students to learn unfamiliar repertoire, share their creative discoveries, and face challenges as a group. By exploring new sounds, multifaceted aspects of communication, and linking various genres, young musicians gain valuable experiences that will help them realize their artistic potential within the continually evolving creative trends of contemporary society.

About the speaker

Alfia Nakipbekova, Cello

Professor Alfia Nakipbekova, PhD, MMus, MA, BMus, BA, is an internationally acclaimed soloist, chamber musician, and pedagogue. She studied under the tutelage of Mstislav Rostropovich and received master classes from renowned figures such as Daniil Shafran and Jacqueline du Pré. Alfia earned the award for Outstanding Mastery of the Cello at the Casals Competition in Budapest and has performed extensively across the UK, Russia, Europe, USA, Middle East, Canada, and Australia. She has also conducted solo and chamber music master classes both in the UK and internationally.

Alfia boasts an extensive discography covering major chamber music repertoire for piano trio, cello/piano sonatas, cello/violin duos, including critically acclaimed recordings of Brahms, Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky, Schubert, Martinù, Shostakovich, Granados, Ives, Cassadó, Turina, and Ravel (Chandos). Notable releases include Hans Gál Complete Works for Cello (Toccata Classics) and JS Bach Six Cello Suites (WCM). In celebration of JS Bach’s 250th anniversary, Alfia performed the ‘Bach Marathon,’ a series of recitals featuring all six Bach Suites in one evening at major venues and festivals worldwide.

Currently, Alfia is immersed in researching the development of the cello in the 20th century. She has presented papers on contemporary cello technique and given lecture-recitals at international conferences hosted by prestigious institutions such as the Universities of Hong Kong, Birmingham, Goldsmiths, Bangor, York, Leeds, Rome, Paris (Pau Casals Symposium, 2023), Royal Academy of Music, King’s College London, and Norwegian Music Academy, Oslo. Alfia holds the position of Professor in Classical Contemporary Performance at Leeds Conservatoire, teaching at the University of Leeds and The Guildhall School of Music, London. She earned her Doctorate at the University of Leeds for her practice-led research titled ‘Performing Contemporary Cello Music: Defining the Interpretative Space.’

Alfia is the editor and a contributor to “Exploring Xenakis: Performance, Practice, Philosophy,” published by Vernon Press (2019). She has written articles on cello technique and interpretation, serving on the Scientific Committee for the Xenakis Centenary Symposium in Athens, 2022. Alfia’s current project focuses on researching cello technique from philosophical, pedagogical, and interdisciplinary perspectives. Her recent recording of David Popper’s 40 Etudes (High School of Cello Playing) has received critical acclaim.

Alfia’s interest in the psychology of performance, the expansion of technical possibilities of cello playing and integral physical training led her to the study and practice of Alexander Technique and Tai Chi Chuan. Alfia began her Tai Chi studies in 2008 with the aim of researching the relationship between string playing and movement and finding a physical fitness method that is beneficial for musicians. Since then, Alfia participated and won gold, silver and bronze medals in many Tai Chi National and European Competitions, and the World Cup Tai Chi Championships in Taiwan as a member of the British Team. Alfia has taught Qi Gong and Tai Chi at the Transcendental Meditation Centre, London, East London Late Starters String Orchestra Summer Courses, Felcino Bianco Chamber Music Courses and has given workshops for musicians at Leeds Conservatoire and the RMA Health and Wellbeing Conference, Hereford Arts College, 2019.