As we count down the days leading up to this year’s Eckhardt-Gramatté National Music Competition, our eight semi-finalists checked in to share their experiences and preparation with pianist Everett Hopfner, a two-time E-Gré participant.

Daniel Tselyakov

Our final semi-finalist interview features Daniel Tselyakov, who is well known to Brandon audiences. After a period of studies in the Eckhardt-Gramatté Conservatory of Music and Brandon University, Daniel went on to Oberlin Conservatory before returning to Canada: he is currently pursuing a master’s degree at the Université de Montréal.

Everett Hopfner: Daniel, you spent many formative years in Brandon and got to experience the Eckhardt-Gramatté competition in person, as a masterclass participant and audience member. What’s your memory of the competition from that perspective?

Daniel Tselyakov: One thing that I love about the E-Gré is that it’s not just for piano. I’ve also gotten to hear the voice and strings contestants over the years – I find it very interesting to hear what other instruments are doing. With the piano competition, I started to think, “could I play that some day? Could I play repertoire so convincingly?” Hearing other pianists at such a high level play is very inspiring – that was my experience.

EH: The audience in Brandon will of course be very familiar with you! Are you excited to come back and play for some people who have supported you along your journey?

DT: It’s great to be part of something back in my hometown. Seeing old friends, being around my family and high school friends – they’ll see me playing music and see how I’ve developed. That’s actually what I’m most excited about.

EH: Why did you decide to enter the E-Gré Competition this year?

DT: At first, I was actually very reluctant to enter the E-Gré: my impression was that it’s centred on a very narrow focus of repertoire, only playing music from the 1950s on. I had some hesitations, but I really like a challenge, so I thought, “let’s do this!” As I started doing my research to discover what I wanted to play, I found out that there’s an incredible range with contemporary music. There are such huge extremes you can go to: whether it’s more conservative or off-the-wall experimental. I love that! As it turns out, I’ve really enjoyed doing the research, discovering new music and taking it on. It’s an interesting new challenge for me. My first impressions were way off.

EH: Can you share some of the highlights from your program? What pieces are you particularly looking forward to performing?

DT: Definitely Arvo Pärt’s “für Alina” – I really love Pärt’s music. It’s a shorter work, but I’ve been a huge fan of his and I really wanted to take it on. There’s David McIntyre’s “Butterflies and Bobcats” – I know he’s a member of the jury so it will be exciting to play for him. What I’m actually most excited about is Carl Vine’s “Piano Sonata No. 1”. I absolutely love it, it actually turns into rock music at the end. Hopefully I’ll make people happy with my music, and share the love!

EH: How has your preparation been for the upcoming competition weekend?

DT: It’s been really great. I really would love an opportunity to do this again – I want to play a lot more new music. Doing a lot of research into the composers, and talking to some of my fellow semi-finalists already, I’m already learning a lot!

EH: What other aspects of the competition are you looking forward to?

DT: Hearing the other competitors play, especially in a competition setting. I know some people don’t like competitions, but I really feel that’s when musicians are able to bring their “A game”. You hear some of the best music performances during competitions. Usually I don’t listen to the other competitors before my performance, so hopefully I can play at the very beginning of the day and listen to everyone else! I really love it!

EH: Thanks for taking the time for this interview, Daniel! I know many in Brandon are looking forward to hearing you play again in a few weeks. Take care and best wishes for your continuing preparation.


The 39th Eckhardt-Gramatté National Music Competition will be held May 6-8 in the Lorne Watson Recital Hall, Brandon University.

For advance tickets or more information, feel free to contact us: 

204-728-8212 or eckhardt@brandonu.ca