“Music exists only when the people who will listen to it exists.” – from Do You Like Brahms?
The most important thing about Do You Like Brahms? is its characters. The plot is simple – six adults wrestle with the joys and heartaches that life and love have to offer.
Just before Chae Song-Ah was to graduate from Seoryeong University School of Business she decided to follow her dream of being a violinist and, after four attempts at the entrance exam, was finally accepted to the School of Music at 26 years old. Unfortunately, her family didn’t understand her decision and wasn’t all that supportive, her mother reminding her “If you didn’t go to music school, you would’ve already graduated from business school and become a businesswoman.” But Song-Ah doesn’t regret her decision to switch careers, at all. She absolutely loves playing the violin, treating it almost like it were a puppy, holding it lovingly and whispering “I love you” to it, just as violin maker Dong-Young had instructed. During a break in classes, she begins an internship on the performance development team at Kyunghoo Cultural Foundation. It is there that she meets and begins to work with pianist Park Joon-Young. She is in awe of the man’s amazing musical talent, enjoys his pleasant personality, and feels comfortable in his company. Joon-Young is quiet, kind, humble, and fun to be around and it doesn’t take long for Song-Ah to realize she has fallen for him.
When Park Joon-Young finished elementary school he move to Seoul on his own to attend the fine arts school there and then went on to attend Seoryeong University School of Music, however, he postponed his graduation to begin performing professionally. Because his father continuously made poor financial decisions, even though Joon-Young disliked participating in piano competitions, he did so solely to pay off the family debt with the prize money he would receive from being the winner. To Joon-Young, playing the piano is simply his job. His fame and popularity skyrocketed when he became the first Korean to tie for second place in the Chopin Piano Competition, with no first-place winner. He has just finished a national tour and has begun a year sabbatical with the intention of going back to the university to graduate. Joon-Young has liked Lee Jung-Kyung since they attended middle school together but because his best friend, Han Hyun-Ho, liked her as well, Joon-Young never pursued anything more than friendship with her.
Han Hyun-Ho is a cellist and Joon-Young’s closest friend. He graduated from Seoryeong University School of Music as a top student and from there he went to the U.S. to study music at a university in Indiana. He has just graduated from a doctorate program there and has returned to Korea with the woman he has loved for over a decade, Lee Jung-Kyung. Hyun-Ho is trying to decide what to do with his life – teach at Seoryeong University, become a member of the New York Philharmonic – but what he’s sure of is his desire to marry Jung-Kyung. Coming from a regular family (his mother owns a small convenience store which he often helps her run), he sometimes feels unworthy of having a girlfriend from a wealthy and prominent family. Hyun-Ho has no idea his sweetheart is in love with his best friend.
At the young age of just six-years-old Lee Jung-Kyung moved to the United States to study violin. She then went back to Korea to attend the fine arts middle school in Seoul and it was during that time that her mother passed away and Jung-Kyung lost her enthusiasm for the violin. However, she continued to play and became a student at Seoryeong University School of Music. After getting her bachelor’s degree there, she was accepted into Juilliard (the prestigious private performing arts conservatory in New York City) and, while still a student, played with the New York Philharmonic. She earned her master’s degree at Juilliard and has just moved back to Korea after finishing her PhD. in music. Jung-Kyung’s wealthy grandmother is the chairwoman, of the Kyunghoo Cultural Foundation, which she began in memory of her deceased daughter, and although Jung-Kyung is expected to play a large role in the business end of things, she isn’t interested in the foundation at all.
When Song-Ah announced that after majoring in business she was going to leave it all behind and go to music school to study violin, Yoon Dong-Yoon was the only person that supported her decision. Along with that moral support, because he was an excellent violinist himself, he gave her private violin lessons a couple of times a week. Dong-Yoon was both her teacher and her friend, and though he would have liked to have had a romantic relationship with her, he never said anything about it. While Dong-Yoon was out of the country he decided his life was heading in a different direction than his dream so he dropped out of music school and, now that he is back in Korea, he has opened his own instrument crafting and repair shop, hoping to someday be the best violin maker in the world.
Kang Min-Sung and Song-Ah have been friends for as long as they can remember, so when Min-Sung said she liked Dong-Yoo, Song-Ah put her feelings for him on the back burner. Min-Sung and Dong-Yoon dated for a while but eventually broke up. Although Dong-Yoon is done with their relationship, Min-Sung is still in love with him. Min-Sung is currently going to Seoryeong University, working on getting a doctorate degree in chemistry.
Park Eun-Bin, whose character is Chae Song-Ah, is a phenomenal actress. She has had amazing chemistry with every leading man in each drama I’ve seen her star in – Yoo Seung-Ho (Operation Proposal), Kim Jong-In (Choco Bank), Yeon Woo-Jin (Judge vs. Judge), Daniel Choi (The Ghost Detective), Namgung Min (Hot Stove League), and now Kim Min-Jae. Eun-Bin is just wow! You can read more about her in my review of Judge vs. Judge.
For some information about Kim Min-Jae, the darling actor who plays pianist Park Joon-Young, you can go to my Hit the Top review. This man’s acting just keeps getting better and better. I can’t wait to see more.
Although Chae Song-Ah and Park Joon-Young are the same age in the drama, in real life Park Eun-Bin is 28 and Kim Min-Jae is 23. In my opinion, Min-Jae did an excellent job acting the part of someone older. I didn’t feel their five-year difference in age at all while watching the show.
Do You Like Brahms? is a fitting title for this drama which teaches us about the true-life relationship between musicians Schubert, his wife Clara, and Brahms (something I had never known) which Joon-Young, Han Hyun-Ho, and Lee Jung-Kyung’s relationship mimics at the beginning of the story. Very clever idea, indeed.
Of course, you’ve heard of a love triangle. Well, Do You Like Brahms? has a love hexagon. See if you can follow this –
A, E, and F have been best friends for many, many years. A had a secret crush on F, which he, in turn, has had on her. E and F were once dating but they broke up. However, because E still likes F, A has decided to keep her feelings to herself and continue being just friends with F. B, C, and D have been buddies since they attended school together. D absolutely adores C and they have officially been a couple for a decade. Although B and C have had a secret crush on each other since middle school, B has honored D’s feelings for C and has always kept things on a friendship basis with her. C has decided she wants a romantic relationship with B but he now likes A, who has stopped liking F and now likes him.
Clear as mud? Well, although it sounds like a jumbled mess, it’s extremely easy to follow with faces attached to the six characters instead of letters. You’re going to enjoy these love stories.
Although these characters look and often seem like they are still in high school, they are intelligent, well-adjusted adults (just shy of 30-years-old), and that’s not often the case in romantic Kdramas. Yes, there are hurt feelings, and jealousy but nothing to the extent of making these folks into evil, scheming monsters.
The writer came up with a very plausible, realistic, satisfying ending to the whole thing. It might not be exactly what you’ll be hoping for but I thought it was excellent! It reminded me of Secret Garden’s ending – not perfect, which gives it realism.
So often, when a movie/drama (Korean or otherwise) shows a character playing an instrument, the sound doesn’t go with what we’re seeing. Because actors don’t necessarily play the instrument their character plays, even though they do their best it often isn’t good enough. However, once in a great while the actor works/rehearses enough with someone who really knows the instrument that their pretend playing can look fairly decent. That was the case with Tomorrow’s Cantabile and it’s also the case with Do You Like Brahms? What we’re seeing and hearing isn’t always perfect but it is oh-so-close, and I very much appreciated that. Because Kim Min-Jae studied composition and piano at a music academy in middle school, we get to see him really playing the piano many times throughout the drama. He probably didn’t play everything his character did but I’ll bet he was able to do quite a bit himself.
Are you wondering what Korean fans thought of this drama? Well, according to Soompi, Good Data Corporation reported that following its finale, Do You Like Brahms? and Kim Min-Jae were the number one most “buzzworthy” drama and actor according to data collected from news articles, blog posts, online communities, videos, and social media. I agree – the show is excellent.
Since the story is centered around musicians, we get to hear lots of beautiful, classical music, however, all but a few minutes of it is a combination of piano, violin, and cello. We are favored with lovely bits of pieces composed by Schubert, Brahms, and Tchaikovsky, to name just a few. The show’s original soundtrack sports the artists g.o.d., Gummy, Chen (from EXO), Baekhyun (also from EXO), Taeyeon (from Girls’ Generation), Punch, K.Will, Jo Yu-Ri (from Iz*One), Kim Na-Young, and Heize – an impressive list, indeed.
The university, the arts foundation, Lee Jung-Kyung’s expensive home, and Joon-Young’s studio apartment are the main backgrounds in the drama. I like that the story spans several months. It starts off in what seems to be the summertime and we watch as the seasons change, the characters needing to wear coats later on. That helps us see these relationships didn’t change overnight but progressed at a gradual, authentic pace.
This is one of the most enjoyable romantic Kdramas I’ve seen all year. The characters are personable and well-adjusted, the plot is plausible, the romances are sincere, and the ending is realistic. Do You Like Brahms? should go right at the top of your watch list.
Realistic, personable characters
On target casting
A few different romances/loves
The playing of instruments looks decent
Can’t think of anything