Do You Like Brahms: Episode 1
The first youth music drama out of the gate, Do You Like Brahms, sets a soft romantic tone as we’re introduced to our music-loving characters. We meet our heroine as she seeks happiness through her love of violin, but her late discovery of this passion poses doubts about her future. She’s introduced to a music prodigy, who faces his own challenges with music, and we slowly learn about their overlapping struggles with friendship and love. And it has everything to do with Brahms.
Note: This is a first episode recap only. Coverage will continue with weecaps.
EPISODE 1: “Träumerei: Dream”
A group of friends surprise our heroine, CHAE SONG-AH (Park Eun-bin), with a cake to celebrate her admission to Seoryeong University’s School of Music. College friend KANG MIN-SUNG (Bae Da-bin) asks Song-ah for her reflections on being admitted to the music school at 26 years old after graduating from the business school, and another close college friend, YOON DONG-YOON (Lee Yoo-jin), interjects to take credit as Song-ah’s violin teacher. Min-sung asks if Song-ah is happy, and Song-ah smiles brightly as she nods.
Jumping to Song-ah as a fourth-year violin student, we see the first violins preparing backstage for the school’s 60th anniversary concert. The violinists complain about the inconvenience of getting to the famous Arts Center for the performance, having performed at the venue multiple times throughout their classical music training, but Song-ah confesses that this is her first time performing here. Unlike the younger students, Song-ah is nervously excited.
Song-ah marvels at the incredible venue, and a fellow violinist asks if she knows the featured pianist, PARK JOON-YOUNG (Kim Min-jae), who is the same age as Song-ah. Though they’re the same age and went to school together, Song-ah never knew Joon-young because they were in different majors.
After the orchestra rehearsal, the conductor welcomes Joon-young and introduces him to the orchestra as their honorable senior who just came back from touring. Joon-young prepares to begin the rehearsal, but just before Joon-young plays, the conductor tells the two violinists at the end to go home because the violin sound is too loud. Song-ah is one of the two violinists and hesitates to leave.
The irascible conductor asks why Song-ah isn’t leaving, and she timidly asks if she can stay because she practiced a lot. The conductor asks for her name and mishears her name as an apology (“Chae Song-ah” sounds like “I’m sorry.”). He gets angry when he hears an apology in response to his question.
Then, he points out that the seating is arranged by grades and yells at Song-ah that she shouldn’t have been last if she wanted to play. Oof, low blow. The uncomfortable silence is broken by cacophonous piano keys, and Joon-young apologizes for dropping his score.
Thankfully, the conductor decides to let Song-ah stay and turns to Joon-young to start the rehearsal. Once again, the capricious conductor stops right before Joon-young plays and tells Song-ah to leave. Nearly in tears, Song-ah exits the stage, and Joon-young looks bothered.
Backstage, Song-ah receives a message from Min-sung that she’s here to see Song-ah play, but unfortunately, the tickets are sold out. As Song-ah collects her emotions in the bathroom stall, she overhears her classmates’ conversation about graduate programs. Then, they wonder what Song-ah’s plans are and express discomfort with asking her directly. In the stall, Song-ah checks her email and opens a rejection email from a graduate program.
The concert begins, and Joon-young puts on an impressive performance. A technician notices Song-ah peeking inside the monitoring room and invites her to watch the performance from a better vantage point. As Song-ah watches the Joon-young’s passionate performance, she reflects, “I was brought to tears by the passion in his music. I cried because of how small and humble I felt.”
After the performance, Joon-young meets his mother outside and invites her to the reception. Mom declines the invite and seems intimidated by the prestigious attendees. Mom mentions that Joon-young’s performance fee hasn’t been deposited, and he offers to check with his company. Before she heads off to catch her bus, Mom assures Joon-young that his dad has been doing better. Hmm, interesting.
As Song-ah tries to sneak out of the bathroom, she runs into classmate Kim Hae-na, who asks her about the summer intern position with the Kyung-hoo Cultural Foundation. The classmate accepted her offer and reminds Song-ah that the deadline for their response is today. Song-ah says that she hasn’t decided yet, and the classmate seems uninterested in Song-ah’s decision.
Song-ah finds her friend Min-sung taking selfies with Joon-young outside, and she looks a bit embarrassed when Min-sung congratulates her for her debut performance at the arts center. Joon-young recognizes Song-ah, and we see that he purposefully dropped his score to interrupt the conductor’s tantrum. He feigns ignorance and thanks Song-ah for her hard work today.
At the reception, the director of the Kyung-hoo Cultural Foundation, NA MOON-SOOK (Yeh Soo-jung), shares remarks about her close ties with Seoryeong University’s School of Music, naming Joon-young and her granddaughter as alumni. Joon-young watches the speech with a close Foundation staff member Cha Young-in, who notes that they’ll rarely see LEE JUNG-KYUNG (Director Na’s granddaughter and Joon-young’s friend, Park Ji-hyun), since she’s teaching in the States. Joon-young looks slightly uncomfortable at the mention of Jung-kyung.
Over a celebratory dinner, Min-sung presents Song-ah with a birthday gift: a custom calendar starting on Song-ah’s birthday. Song-ah flips to the first month and sees the photo of her with Min-sung and Dong-yoon. Min-sung notes how Dong-yoon looks the same and scolds herself for still liking him years after they briefly dated. Song-ah seems a bit tense at the mention of Dong-yoon.
At the reception, Joon-young continues his fan service by taking selfies with the conductor. The conductor tries to recruit Joon-young to perform at an upcoming concert with his symphony, but Joon-young politely declines because he isn’t planning on performing this year.
Song-ah consults Min-sung on her intern offer from the Foundation. She’s worried about losing practice time, but Min-sung advises her to take advantage of this opportunity to cover the cost of her next semester. Song-ah asks about Min-sung’s graduation, and Min-sung scolds herself for liking chemistry enough to go to graduate school. Song-ah says the same about music and recalls that Dong-yoon was the only one who rooted her on.
While Min-sung steps away, a young girl approaches Song-ah and asks her what’s in the case. Song-ah responds that it’s a violin and sings a children’s song to help the girl recognize what a violin is. The girl asks Song-ah if she’s good at playing the violin, and Song-ah pauses. Her eyes turning melancholy, Song-ah responds, “I like the violin.”
As Joon-young waits for Young-in in the parking lot, he overhears the conductor deprecating Joon-young for declining his offer yet still agreeing to perform for the Kyung-hoo Cultural Foundation later this year. The conductor diminishes Joon-young’s fame, saying that he isn’t as great as he once was.
In the car, Young-in tells Joon-young about Director Na’s disappointment that she couldn’t see Joon-young or Jung-kyung in New York because of the long flight. Young-in figures that Joon-young saw Jung-kyung while they were in the U.S. together, and Joon-young recalls seeing Jung-kyung crying at his concert. Young-in says that Jung-kyung doesn’t call home often and wonders if she’s too occupied with her boyfriend.
Suddenly, it starts raining, and Joon-young notices Song-ah running to shelter. He starts to ask Young-in if they have an umbrella, but Song-ah covers her violin with her jacket and runs to the nearest convenience store to buy an umbrella.
Song-ah comes home drenched to her parents and older sister, Song-hee, who’s a lawyer. Song-hee asks about Song-ah’s plans after graduation, and at Song-ah’s silence, she suggests that her sister find a different path.
Trying to assure her family, Song-ah shares that she’ll be working as an intern with the Kyung-hoo Cultural Foundation planning team. She makes it a point to mention that she qualified by passing the test. Song-ah shares Kyung-hoo’s prestige and that the former president of Kyung-hoo Group is the Foundation’s director.
Song-hee asks if she plans on getting a job with the Foundation, and Song-ah rejects that plan. Mom regrets that Song-ah could have been working at other branches of Kyung-hoo with her business degree and blames her husband for raising Song-ah with classical music (lol). When Song-ah’s well-accomplished family asks her about her plans, Song-ah comes up empty and walks away from the conversation.
Song-ah looks at her name in the concert program and thinks about the conductor and her sister doubting her violin career. When she opens a beer, it spills on her precious program, and she looks so disappointed. Later that night, she officially accepts the intern offer.
Joon-young thanks Young-in for preparing an apartment for him, and Young-in credits Director Na for the generosity. When he arrives at his new apartment, Joon-young finds a welcome flower basket from Director Na and sees Kyung-hoo’s building outside his window.
Song-ah arrives at the Kyung-hoo Foundation for her first day with classmate Hae-na, and a planning team member mishears her name as an apology (like the conductor). Hae-na snickers at the familiar mistake. Planning Team Leader Young-in orients them to the space and the team, and we see a plaque commemorating pianist Jung Kyung-sun. After her work day, Song-ah practices her violin and squeezes in more violin by watching videos during her commute.
After work, Song-ah peeks into the rehearsal room and looks at the callouses on her fingers. Young-in finds her admiring the rehearsal room, and Song-ah cautiously asks if she can use the room to practice violin. Young-in is happy to let her use the room whenever it’s free and tells Song-ah to just check in with their scheduling point person, Deputy Lim Yoo-jin. Song-ah looks thrilled.
During her next lunch break, Song-ah excitedly heads to the rehearsal room, but she’s surprised to find it occupied. Joon-young is playing the piano, and Song-ah stands at the entrance, engrossed in his music. Song-ah’s buzzing phone interrupts the silence, and Joon-young apologetically asks if he’s using her space. Mortified Song-ah apologizes and rushes out to answer a call from Deputy Ryu, who belatedly informs her that Joon-young asked to use the rehearsal room.
Joon-young recognizes Song-ah from the concert rehearsal and her protecting her violin in the rain. When Joon-young tries to play another song, he struggles to play one note and tries again. He wipes down the keys and starts playing, but he continues to stumble on the same note.
The planning team goes out to dinner, and Song-ah shifts uncomfortably in her skirt. One team member notices the bruise on Song-ah’s neck and commends her dedication to practicing the violin. Hae-na slides in and proudly claims to have a penchant for the violin because she doesn’t have any bruises even after ten hours of practicing.
Young-in wonders if Joon-young forgot about the team dinner and says that he doesn’t have a Korean phone number yet. She asks Song-ah to retrieve him from the office, and Song-ah gladly goes outside to stretch her legs. She limps outside just as Joon-young arrives, and they recognize each other.
Song-ah introduces herself as the planning team intern and explains that she was about to retrieve him from the office. Joon-young apologizes for being late, and he notices Song-ah limping toward the door. She claims to be fine and then asks for 30 seconds to shake out her numb legs. Joon-young smiles in amusement.
Song-ah explains further that she was going to retrieve him because he doesn’t have a Korean phone. He says that he just got one and asks for Song-ah’s number. Song-ah looks confused that he’s asking for her number, so he explains that Young-in told him to call her if he plans on using the rehearsal room. She shares her number and starts to spell out her name, but Joon-young already knows.
They join the dinner, and we learn that Joon-young is finishing up his last semester at Seoryeong because he was too busy with concerts to finish his degree. Drunk Hae-na asks Joon-young if she can call him “oppa” as his high school and college junior, and Young-in realizes that Joon-young and Song-ah are the same age. The team members suggest that they drop the formalities as friends, but Song-ah says that she couldn’t do that to a superstar.
At home, Song-ah practices and notices something odd with her violin sound. She picks up a call from Dong-yoon, who brags that he got second place. She tells him about her violin sound, and he says that he’ll fly back tomorrow to check it out. He tells her to meet her at the airport and quickly hangs up to attend the award ceremony. Song-ah seems happy about the impromptu visit and looks at a photo of Dong-yoon, who’s currently in Italy.
Joon-young also receives a welcome correspondence from a long-time friend, who’s coming back from the U.S. and asks him to meet him at the airport. He admires the photo in the email, of the three close friends.
Song-ah looks up an article about Dong-yoon learning to be a violin maker in Italy and reads through it with a proud smile. She fixates on the word “dream” in the headline and remembers Joon-young playing Schumann’s Träumerei in the rehearsal room. She looks up Joon-young and Träumerei, but she doesn’t find any clips of him playing the song. She sighs that there are so many results when searching “dream,” but she can’t find hers.
Joon-young looks through the archives on his old phone and finds a video of his two best friends, Jung-kyung and Hyun-ho, wishing him good luck on his concert. He focuses on Jung-kyung at the end of the video and recalls their interaction at his concert in New York.
In the lobby of the concert venue, Joon-young found Jung-kyung and saw that she was crying when she turned around. Then, she kissed him. Drama! Bothered by this memory, Joon-young stuffs his old phone into his suitcase and forces the suitcase in the closet.
At the airport, Song-ah fixes her make-up and freezes when she receives a call from Min-sung. She doesn’t pick up and looks guilty as she remembers Min-sung saying that Dong-yoon never called her after leaving for Italy. She reassesses her look and wipes the gloss off of her lips.
As Song-ah waits for Dong-yoon, she looks around, and her eyes widen at the sight of Joon-young. They awkwardly greet each other and end up waiting for their friends together. Song-ah says that she’s greeting her guy friend and explains that she brought her violin because her friend makes instruments. Joon-young shares that he’s also waiting for a friend, and they awkwardly laugh to fill the space.
Joon-young asks about the test for the Kyung-hoo Cultural Foundation internship, and Song-ah explains that applicants need to submit a concert plan. She shares that she wrote performance program and a marketing plan. Joon-young is impressed by the submission, but Song-ah tries to downplay her work as something anyone could do.
Joon-young gives her more credit and asks what she included in the concert program. She tries to brush it off as nothing, but Joon-young asks again with earnest curiosity. Song-ah notices his sincere ask and shares that she included Brahms, Schumann, and Clara.
Reflecting on that selection, Joon-young wonders if the theme was “unattainable love.” Song-ah denies this and says that her theme was “friendship” among the three. Then, Song-ah asks, “Do you like Brahms?”
In narration, Song-ah wonders why she asked Joon-young this question. We see a quick clip of a violinist, a cellist, and a pianist. Then he responds, “No, I don’t like Brahms.”
Their conversation is interrupted by the arrival of their friends, and Song-ah narrates, “Brahms’ love of his life was Clara, the wife of his musical mentor and best friend Schumann. Although Clara frequently played Brahms’ music, she always had Schumann at her side. Brahms lived his life alone by Clara’s side.”
Song-ah happily greets Dong-yoon, but Joon-young’s expression stiffens as he watches his friend, HAN HYUN-HO (Kim Sung-chul), arrive with Jung-kyung. Hyun-ho wraps his arms around Jung-kyung, signifying that they’re together. The brief clip of the violinist, cellist, and pianist are of these three modern day Brahms, Schumann, and Clara. Song-ah narrates, “I later learned that he doesn’t play Brahms.”
I found this first episode to be sweet and pleasant, and then that last scene totally won me over. The story of Brahms, Schumann, and Clara as an analogy for Joon-young’s friendship and heartbreak was the perfect way to grip me. I went from “Aw, this is cute,” to “Wait, I love this show.” As the show introduced us to Song-ah and Joon-young, I noticed the intentional parallels drawn between the friend groups (read: love triangles), and I found the distinction at the end compelling. While the three musicians evoke a sense of loss for Joon-young, they mean something entirely different for Song-ah: friendship. I’m curious to see how these two different interpretations will clash or reconcile as Song-ah and Joon-young grow closer.
Song-ah’s love for the violin is so pure, and though she carries herself with a bit of shame, she’s so sure in her passion for the instrument. In the intimidating environment of musicians, she carries herself apologetically, and the explicit commentary on her name sounding like an apology reinforces this shame. I’m sympathetic to Song-ah’s predicament as an older student at a crossroads about her future, and I hope her journey to find a path doesn’t lead her to settle on something that mutes her love and passion for the violin.
I loooove Park Eun-bin in this and just in general because she’s a reliable actress in both her art and her eye for shows. There are some actors that I’ll watch a show for and bear the pain no matter how terrible the show is. We all have that ride or die in dramaland. For me, Park Eun-bin is like that ride or die but without any of the risks. I think Park Eun-bin gravitates towards characters that allow her to bring depth and dimension, and I’m sure the depth and solid presence she brings to Song-ah will largely benefit this show.
We didn’t get too much background on Joon-young in this episode other than his role as Brahms in his trio of friends, but his interaction with his mother indicates to me that his upbringing was a bit rocky. He’s the breadwinner for his family, and at first glance, he doesn’t seem to carry resentment about this burden. It seems that his career was largely sponsored by the Kyung-hoo Foundation, and I wonder if that debt to the Foundation affects how he navigates his career. He’s definitely not an open book, and I think it will take some effort to pry open his story.
Overall, I’m impressed by how thoughtful this first episode was and can sense the respect for music that these actors are bringing to their roles. Even with the cuts of Joon-young and Song-ah playing their instruments, I can tell they practiced, so we’re not getting any abrupt cuts to a double-casted musician. This show brought back my nostalgia for the piano, and I’m planning on tuning in for the more nostalgia, friendship, and love — the musical, platonic, romantic, and unattainable.
- Premiere Watch: Do You Like Brahms, Lies of Lies
- Bittersweet love triangles and heartbreaking first love in Do You Like Brahms?
- Script reading for classical music youth drama Do You Like Brahms?
- Kim Sung-chul joins Park Eun-bin, Kim Min-jae in SBS’s Do You Like Brahms?
- Park Eun-bin, Kim Min-jae up for new SBS drama, Do You Like Brahms?