Do You Like Brahms?

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Park Eun-bin and Kim Min-jae in Do You Like Brahms?
Park Eun-bin and Kim Min-jae in Do You Like Brahms?
Photo: Facebook/SBS Drama


Do You Like Brahms?




5/5 Stars


While struggling to find her footing after starting later than her peers, a violin student falls for a successful pianist with a lonely soul.


Do You Like Brahms? is one of those shows that caught me off guard; it's unassuming and packs a powerful emotional punch that days after watching the show, I couldn't shake it off. In fact, I have already rewatched the final two episodes. Don't be put off by the synopsis, as it is way more than what it lets on.

The plot is inspired by 'classical music's most tragically romantic love triangle' - pianist Johannes Brahms' unrequited love for pianist Clara Schumann, the wife of Brahms' mentor pianist Robert Schumann.

There isn't just one but two love triangles in the show, and to complicate it even more, the parties involved are all friends.

In triangle one, we have Park Joon-young (Kim Min-jae), a world-renowned pianist who has won multiple competitions and travels the world. He is very talented, and a considerable part of his success is due to the scholarship he got from the Kyunghoo Foundation. Despite his great talent, Joon-young is lonely and empty, and from a young age, he had to pay off his family's debt due to his father's bad business decisions. On top of that, he feels indebted and weighed down by his connection to the foundation that has supported him all the years. He has feelings for the heir of the foundation Lee Jung-kyung (Park Ji-hyun), a violinist, who has been dating his friend, Han Hyun-ho (Kim Sung-cheol), a cellist for ten years.

In triangle two, there is Chae Song-ah (Park Eun-bin) who decides to go back to university after completing a business degree to pursue her love for the violin. Despite her love for the instrument, she lacks a natural talent and struggles to keep up with her classmates, who have played the violin longer than she has. Song-Ah is best friends with Kang Min-sung (Bae Da-bin), a chemistry student and Yoon Dong-yoon (Lee Yoo-jin), a violinist turned violin maker. The trio met at a music club and have been friends ever since. When Song-ah decided to pursue music, Dong-yoon was the only one who supported her. Her feelings for Dong-yoon develop over time, but there's a snag - he is Min-sung ex's boyfriend - and she still has feelings for him.

Joon-young and Song-ah's paths first cross at a concert; they meet again when Song-ah interns at the Kyunghoo Foundation, who manages Joon-young when he is in South Korea. They develop a friendship and bond over their complicated and similar unrequited love stories; eventually, it turns into more, and the pair start a relationship. Together they navigate the highs and lows of their newfound relationship, the external challenges from family and friends, and their internal battles regarding their music. On the one hand, Song-ah has to decide if she wants to continue pursuing the violin, which has been a struggle for her, while Joon-young has to work through the pain and unhappiness he believes playing the piano has brought him.

When it comes to the acting, Kim Min-jae and Park Eun-bin both deliver poignant performances. With both of these characters being introverts, the actors had quite a challenging task.

Min-jae was able to turn out a convincing performance of someone who would instead use music to express himself. His facial expressions, the tone of his voice, even the way he carried himself was that of someone who bottles up his emotions. Is it possible for someone to look beautifully sad? Cause that's the only way I can describe him in emotional moments. On the offset of the sadness when he smiles and laughs, it totally transformed the character.

In turn, Eun-bin brings a quiet strength to her shy, reserved character. Even in the moments when there are silences in her scenes, one can read her underlying emotions. I also enjoyed how she showed duality in her character when it was time for her to stand up for herself. She does that without faltering. Often, people think that introverts are pushovers which they are not, and I just love how she portrayed this with the character.

I have to mention that both actors play their respective instruments for real in the show; Eun-bin even relearned to play the violin in just three months. 

Together this OTP (one true pairing) is so heart-warming to watch. I loved how this relationship blossomed, the honest conversations they had, the awkwardness of navigating a new relationship - it was so relatable. And when their relationship hits a rough patch, it was easy to understand how because of their personalities - they shut each other out. Min-jae and Eun-bin have amazing chemistry, and it's not a surprise that they won the Best Couple Award at the 2020 SBS Drama Awards.

The show explores several themes such as friendship, pursuing your passion, self-love, and the politics of navigating the cutthroat world of classical music. One theme that stuck with me was letting go of dreams that you've held on to for too long. Sometimes those dreams we hold on to so tightly can stop us from discovering new dreams.

I can't review a music show and not talk about the music. The soundtrack has a perfect blend of contemporary songs and classical tracks, which aids the storytelling. There is a scene in which Joon-yung plays a mash-up of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata and the happy birthday song that I have become obsessed with.

Do You Like Brahms? is a perfect composition, like a melody that lingers with you long after the final note has played.


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