Nakipbekova (Bekova) was born in Karaganda, a mining town in Central
Kazakhstan, where, at the age of seven, she began her cello studies
with exiled cellist and Gulag survivor, Roman Mazanov (originally
She was accepted by the Moscow Central Music School for gifted children
and 3 years later entered the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatoire to
study with Mstislav Rostropovich, as well as receiving an extensive
series of master classes from the Soviet cello legend - Daniel Shafran.
At the age of 15 she was awarded the First Prize at The Central Asian
Republics Competition and performed Tchaikovsky Rococo Variation with
The Kazakh State Symphony Orchestra. Her awards include: Diploma at
The All - Union Tchaikovsky Competition in Vilnius, Diploma at the
Piano Trios Competition in Belgrade and the Special Prize for Outstanding
Mastery of The Cello at the Casals Competition in Budapest. As a concerto
soloist, recitalist and a chamber musician, Alfia performed in numerous
towns and cities throughout the former Soviet Republics, appeared
in major venues in Moscow and Leningrad, was regularly broadcast on
the Soviet Radio and Television and recorded for Melodya.
In 1981 Alfia defected to the UK where she realized her dream to study
with Jacqueline Du Pré. She soon established herself as a leading
soloist and chamber musician (with The Bekova Trio) and has appeared
at major Festivals and concert halls throughout Europe, USA, Middle
East, Canada and Australia.
A keen interest in new music led Alfia to take part in many collaborations/performances.
The most notable works she has premiered so far are: Concerto for
cello and chamber orchestra by Timur Tleukhan (first performance at
the Moscow Conservatoire, Rachmaninov Hall, with Musica Viva), "Gethsemane
Night" for electric cello, choir, piano and percussion, Concerto
Mystery and Concerto Grosso by Sergei Zhukov (first performances at
the Moscow Autumn Festivals, recorded for Chandos) and Triple Overture
by Steven Gerber (recorded for Chandos).
The extensive discography includes major chamber music repertoire
for Piano Trio, Cello Sonatas and Cello/Violin Duos, including critically
acclaimed recordings of Brahms, Martinu and Shostakovich (Chandos).
The BBC Music Magazine chose the Martinu album as CD of the year,
and the Clarke/Ives album was Critic’s Choice for Gramophone
In 1998 Alfia began a series of "Bach Marathon" solo recitals
(playing all six Bach Suites in one evening) and since then has performed
in various venues and festivals, including London, Oxford, Aldeburgh,
Melbourne Festival, Cork Chamber Music Festival, Felcino Bianco Festival,
PACT Festival, Brussels and the Orkney Islands.
ALFIA NAKIPBEKOVA. SIX BACH CELLO SUITES, BWV 1007 - 1012
recorded @ ST. BONIFACE KIRK, PAPA WESTRAY (PAPAY), ORKNEY in December
2007 and November 2008
recording of Cello Suites at St Boniface Kirk, Papay, is a great contribution
to establishing Orkney as a Classical Music Centre
and celebrating landmarks of Orkney as a recording venues. We hope
this project will attract more world class musicians to perform and
to record in Orkney.
Bach . Suite No.6 BWV 1012 in D major . Sarabande . Alfia Nakipbekova
Recorded at St Boniface Kirk, Papa Westray (Papay), Orkney
Bach . Suite No.4 BWV 1010 in E flat major . Prélude . Alfia
Nakipbekova . Recording at St Boniface Kirk, Papa Westray
I first came to Papa Westray in August 2007 to play a series of concerts,
including a Bach recital at St Boniface. I fell in love with Papay
immediately, not because it is beautiful in a traditional sense, but
because of the simplicity and practicality of the place; an island
that has developed because of the needs of the people who live and
work there – hardy, honest, decent working people. Yet within
that environment there is a beauty and complexity that is like no
other I have seen before. The wind blows incessantly, transforming
the lighting and appearance of the sky and the sea in an instant throughout
the day. St Boniface, like the island, is a simple place; a small
kirk made of stone with no architectural embellishments whatsoever,
a meeting place for worship and community activity. During my performance
there I felt the environment was guiding my interpretation. Rather
than imposing any preconceived ideas that I had arrived at through
many years of study and performances, I felt the music was speaking
for itself and revealing its depths through its innate simplicity.
I knew I had to go back to Papay and record there.
Magnus cathedral in Kirkwall and the little church of St Boniface
on Papa Westray – one of the smallest and most northerly islands
of the Orkney archipelago – are the only two medieval churches
in Orkney which have survived into the 21st century intact and still
in use for worship.
A late 7th-century incised cross found in the kirkyard at St Boniface
is the earliest piece of hard evidence that Christianity had arrived
in the Northern Isles. Although Papa Westray seems remote when viewed
from the modern perspective of motor-car based communications, for
all the previous centuries of sea travel it was on a main highway.
It is likely that the first church on the island was part of a monastery,
built as springboard for missionary expeditions to both Orkney and
Sometime in the 12th century St Boniface became the parish church,
as it remained for 800 years until 1929 when it became redundant and
was abandoned. For the next 60 years the little stone church and its
unusual early 18th-century furnishings slid into dereliction until
at last restoration was undertaken by a team of local builders. In
June 1994 St Boniface was rededicated (after a pilgrimage around the
historic places of the island which has become an annual event) and
is used again for occasional services.
Surrounded by fields and the sea, it is a peaceful place; the only
sounds one usually hears there are the wind, the waves crashing on
the shore below, or birdsongon a summer evening. The remarkably good
acoustic makes it an ideal place for concerts (even if the performers
sometimes have to contend with the Orkney wind!): Emma Kirkby and
Anthony Rooley have performed Dowland and Monteverdi, and in August
2007 Alfia A performed her “Bach marathon”, the six suites,
in its intimate small space and realised it was where she wanted to
CELLO SUITES IN PAPAY
set off from London in November 2007. We faced a two and a half day
grueling journey - first by crowded train to Aberdeen, an 8 eight
hour ferry crossing in a force 8 wind, another ferry from Kirkwall
to Westray and finally a small fishing boat that would take us to
our final destination - Papa Westray (a small island off the most
northern tip of Orkney inhabited by 70 people, a few cows and several
hundred sheep). Luckily by the time we left Westray the wind had dropped
so the crossing was fairly mild but there was heavy cloud cover and
the boat man had to rely on, what looked like, an antiquated radar
system to get us through the pitch black darkness. Having seen the
broken skeleton of a vessel that had recently run aground on the rocks
of Papay, it was a relief to see Ivanov and Chan waiting for us on
The next day we went to visit St Boniface where we would record 3
of the Bach suites. It is a small 12 century church on the North side
of the island near the sea. The building has recently been restored
but there is no electricity or heating and even when the doors and
windows were firmly shut, I could still hear the wind howling and
the sea splashing against the rocks. This would be a problem. We borrowed
a generator from a kind farmer and local residents leant us their
portable gas fires. After dragging the generator through muddy fields
with rain blowing horizontally into our faces by a 50 mph hour wind,
I started to set up the recording equipment. Through the headphones
I could hear the low frequency sounds of the wind and the sea rumbling
against the diaphragms of the sensitive microphones. We had no alternative
but to wait for a break in the weather which finally happened in the
afternoon. Some days it was quiet and we managed to record quite a
lot of material, but there were times when the wind was so fierce
it became impossible to work and we had to retreat to Ivanov and Chan's
studio on the other side of the Island where we would warm ourselves
with hot tea and a a few wee drams of the local brew. After 7 days
of work (most of which was downtime) with the help and encouragement
from Ivanov, Chan and the people of Papay we completed the first half
of the cycle. A year later we returned to Papay to continue recording.
Again, the weather was stormy, but this time there was no respite
from the wind so we had to make the difficult decision to record some
of the suites in Ivanov and Chan's studio - hence the non - chronological
order of the music. (The suites are grouped for consistency of the
acoustics.) We decided to leave some of the sound of wind on the tracks
- No. 5 particularly as we felt this was an honest representation
of the recording conditions.
We celebrated the project's completion with our new friends from Papay.
They treated to the traditional "Muckle Supper" followed
by energetic dancing, accompanied by the local master of the accordion
- Margaret Rendall - who kindly allowed me to play along with her
on my fiddle.
2008: BACH CELLO SUITES @ PAPEY LISTSKJUL
NOVEMBER 2008: Alfia
Nakipbekova is performing Bach Cello Suites at Ivanov + Chan Studio
former student of Rostropovich, performed all 6 J.S.Bach Suites
at the St Boniface Kirk as a part of her Bach Marathon series which
she has played in Melbourne, Italy, Belgium, London, Oxford, and
Aldeburgh with great critical acclaim.
Hesford and Alfia Nakipbekova, founder members of the cutting edge,
London based cello ensemble Cellorhythmics, played a concert in
the studio of artists Ivanov and Tsz Man Chan. They performed original
music by James, influenced by Jazz, Blues and World Music.