Seokyoung Hong, a 15-year-old phenom from South Korea, took home the top prize at the 2023 Cliburn International Junior Piano Competition and Festival in Dallas on Saturday, June 17.
As winner, Hong received a cash award of $15,000. He also was chosen as the winner of the Audience Award ($500).
A past prize-winner at several international competitions, Hong moved from his native Seoul to Boston in 2022, where he now studies piano at the New England Conservatory Preparatory School.
Notably, Hong's triumph at the Cliburn Junior competition came exactly a year (to the day) after fellow South Korean pianist Yunchan Lim's historic and gold medal-winning performance of Rachmaninoff's Piano Concerto No. 3 at the Sixteenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.
Yifan Wu, 14, of China, won second place (a cash award of $10,000) at the Cliburn Junior. Wu, who hails from Shanghai, made his concerto debut with the Wuhan Philharmonic Orchestra and is a laureate of Chinese national competitions.
Third prize ($5,000 cash) went to Jan Schulmeister, 16, of Czechia, who has taken home more than 30 awards at piano competitions and has recorded two CDs.
The top three winners also received $2,500 scholarships to further their musical advancement.
Three semifinalists - Zihan Jin, 14, of China; Modan Oyama, 17, of Japan; and Zhonghua Wei, 14, of China - each received cash awards of $2,500.
The winners were announced by jury chairman Janina Fialkowska at the Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center on Saturday at the conclusion of the final round, in which all three finalists played a concerto with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and conductor Valentina Peleggi.
Before an excited audience of piano fans and Cliburn supporters from across Dallas-Fort Worth, the affable Schulmeister started the afternoon with Saint-Saens’ Piano Concerto No. 2, followed by Wu on Chopin’s lyrical Piano Concerto No. 1. Hong finished the competition with Rachmaninoff’s virtuosic Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini.
The 2023 Cliburn Junior competition took place June 8-17, with the first three rounds contested at Caruth Auditorium at SMU before moving to the Meyerson for the finals with the DSO.
Twenty-three pianists, aged 13-17, from around the world came to Dallas to compete in the event. In total, 38 pianists representing 13 countries were selected (from a pool of 248 applicants) as either contestants or participants in Cliburn Junior festival events.
A webcast of the competition drew more than 1.2 million views in 122 countries, nearly doubling the 2019 Cliburn Junior total of 650,000 views, the organization announced.
The Cliburn International Junior Piano Competition and Festival was established in 2015 “as another means for the Cliburn to use its standing and expertise to encourage tomorrow’s great artists, to provide a valuable forum for them to express themselves, and to give them an entrance to the next step of their journeys,” the organization says.
The next Cliburn competition will be the Seventeenth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, in 2025, in Fort Worth.