Photo by Ralph Lauer

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.

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'Yellowstone' stars to greet fans at Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo

Yellowstone news

Yellowstone fans, get your comfy shoes ready - there'll be a long line for this one. Cole Hauser a.k.a. "Rip Wheeler" on Yellowstone, and Taylor Sheridan, the show's co-creator, executive producer, and director of the series, will meet fans and sign autographs at the Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo.

The event will take place from 4:30-6:30 pm only on Friday, February 3. Location is the 6666 Ranch booth near the south end of Aisle 700 in the Amon G. Carter, Jr. Exhibits Hall.

According to a February 2 announcement from FWSSR, "fans will have the opportunity to snag an autograph as well as purchase some distinctive Yellowstone and 6666 Ranch merchandise while also enjoying all the features the Stock Show offers."

The event is free to attend (with paid Stock Show admission) and open to the public.

It's the second year in a row for Hauser to appear at FWSSR; in 2022, he and fellow cast mates drew huge crowds.

Sheridan, a Paschal High School graduate, is no stranger to Fort Worth; he lives in a ranch near Weatherford and filmed 1883, the prequel to Yellowstone, in and around Fort Worth. Currently, another spinoff, 1883: The Bass Reeves Story, is filming in North Texas.

The Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo is winding up its 2023 run on Saturday, February 4.

Fort Worth's ranking as a 'house rich' city leads this week's 5 hottest headlines

This week's hot headlines

Editor's note: A lot happened this week, so here's your chance to get caught up. Read on for the week's most popular headlines.

1. Fort Worth is the 4th most 'house rich' city in America, report finds. With high interest rates and home prices making daily headlines, houses in Texas' current real estate market may seem out of reach for many potential homebuyers. But that isn't the case in Fort Worth. A new study has revealed Fort Worth is the No. 4 most "house rich" major city in the nation.

2. All the electrifying new displays to see at Lightscape 2023 in Fort Worth. The Fort Worth Botanic Garden is all lit up, merry and bright, for the second year of Lightscape, the holiday sensation that debuted to sell-out crowds in 2022. Last year's visitors who might wonder if Year Two will feature all the same experiences and photo ops are in for many surprises: The 2023 edition was reimagined from entry to exit, with 15 all-new installations joining just three of last year's fan favorites.

3. Vibrant Thai-Laotian restaurant joins rich lineup at Grapevine food hall. Harvest Hall, the European-style food hall in historic Grapevine, has an exciting new concept: Called Thai Esane, it's a Thai and Laotian restaurant from Nashville. Thai Esane features dishes from the northeastern region of Thailand, combining classic Thai and Laotian cuisine made with traditional methods.

4. Where to drink in Fort Worth right now: 6 best spots for brunch cocktails. Today’s brunch beverages are fancier than ever, spiked with vodka or high-end tequila, served with big garnishes of fresh fruit and herbs, and topped with crisp bubbly for the perfect toast. Here are six places for lip-smacking brunch libations, all of which are great for entertaining guests in town this holiday season.

5. Buzzy Mansfield center signs up 5 new restaurants including Portillo's. Thriving Mansfield center The Shops at Broad has ramped up its game with the addition of five national restaurants to its tenant list - including cult-favorite Chicago-style hot dog chain Portillo's. This will be the chain's first location in Mansfield, and the sixth in the DFW area.

Pastries at bakery in Southlake look as good as they taste

Pastry News

A new bakery in Southlake is sweetening the local pastry game. Called D'Caramel Patisserie, it's doing beautiful croissants and French desserts, as pretty to look at as they are to eat.

Located in a former medical office at 2211 E Southlake Blvd., the shop is from Anna Narinian, a former HR pro said to have studied with notable European chefs who is bringing a combination of classic touches with innovative twists.

She started out selling her goods at Kellers Farmers Market before opening the storefront in late October.

The goal is to offer a wide selection of Viennoiserie products, including croissants, Danishes, kouign amanns, and brioches in the mornings, and French desserts throughout the day. Their menu includes eclairs, macarons, croissants, and three-dimensional tarts.

There are almond croissants, apple-yuzu croissants, hazelnut croissants, pain au chocolate, pear tarts made with croissant dough and topped with an entire pear half glazed with syrup, and "cinnamon rolls" made with croissant dough and dusted with sugar.

Prices are not cheap, with croissants ranging from $4.50 to $6.50 and pastries averaging $8.75.

A few things make this shop stand out from the rest.

One distinction: Their process for making croissants incorporates a long fermentation of the dough. This is a recent development in the croissant world that originated in France (and is also being embraced locally by pastry chef Amy LaRue at Carte Blanche Bakery in Dallas).

Longer fermentation can add a welcome complexity to the flavor of a baked good, and is a requirement in sourdough bread, contributing to its resilient texture and tangy flavor. But it requires monitoring, as fermentation affects the flour and can make the baked product chewier, not a favorable result in croissants.

A second distinction, one not found anywhere else in DFW, is their showpiece pastry collection, in which the pastries are molded to look like food objects such as raspberries or tacos, the pastry equivalent of the trompe l’œil technique in fine art.

This is a technique pioneered by Cédric Grolet, dubbed "the best pâtissier in the world," and with whom Narinian has reportedly studied, along with a trio of other internationally-famous chefs including Stephane Glacier, Daniel Alvarez, and Francois Brunet.

Her trompe l’œil selection includes one pastry that looks like a giant raspberry; another that resembles a giant chocolate-dusted coffee bean; and a cute one that looks like a cookie taco.

Inside, the desserts feature a cloud-like mousse, a crunchy layer, and creamy fillings in flavors such as chocolate, coffee, hazelnut, caramel, tropical, and berry.

Lastly, D'Caramel uses good ingredients: butter and fruit purees from France, Belgian chocolate, and Madagascar vanilla.

The bakery features an open kitchen, with seating areas still to come. There is no phone, and they don't respond to messages on social media, but they do offer ordering online. For now, it's open four days a week: from Wednesday-Saturday 8 am-6 pm.