Do You Like Brahms? – Full Season 1 Review


Season 1

Episode Guide

Episode 1 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 2 -| Review Score – 4/5
Episode 3 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 4 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 5 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 6 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 7 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 8 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 9 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 10 -| Review Score – 3.5/5
Episode 11 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 12 -| Review Score – 2.5/5
Episode 13 -| Review Score – 2.5/5
Episode 14 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 15 -| Review Score – 3/5
Episode 16 -| Review Score – 4/5


Set in a music university and following a group of aspiring (and seasoned) musicians, Do You Like Brahms is ironically not really about music. While there are admittedly some incredible piano and violin performances, this Korean drama instead settles into a melodramatic rhythm for much of its runtime.

The music is simply used as a foundation for drama and romance, both of which combine to make this a compelling and enjoyable series but perhaps not quite what some may be expecting.

The story itself predominantly revolves around two different characters from very different walks of life. The first is Song-A who finds herself hopeful to become a violin major amongst stiff competition. Thrown out of an early performance for being the least talented, Song-A finds herself struggling to be heard and seen. However, talented pianist Joon-Young is one such person who sees her.

Having played in piano competitions across Korea and now on the verge of being famous, Joon-Young is our second lead here. He takes a fancy to this young player and tries to help her become better. Along the way there’s plenty of romance, drama and heartache between them as the pair find themselves caught up in a whirlwind will they/won’t they romance.

Things inevitably aren’t that simple though. Thanks to an infamous kiss back in New York, the arrival of Joon-Young’s long-time crush Jung-Kyung and her boyfriend Hyun-Ho brings up a world of trouble. In fact, as we soon come to find out, Hyun-Ho and Joon-Young are actually best friends too. Inevitably melodrama follows, with further entangled plot lines coming from Song-A’s best friend Min-Sung and resident violin fixer-upper Dong-Yoon.

Across the 16 episodes, there’s a steady blend of melodrama mixed in with more dramatic crescendos of heartache. This is very much a coming of age drama as our two leads come to terms with the direction of their lives and what they want from their future.

When this materializes around the midway point, this is where the drama slips up the most. When we first meet Song-A she’s hopeful for the future and despite set-backs, determined to make a name for herself and follow in Joon-Young’s footsteps. Without spoiling too much, that struggle never really comes to fruition and in fact, peters out around this midway poin.

It’s a shame too because there’s definitely some symbolic and intentional references to Brahms’ personal life. In particular, that heartache of desiring what one can’t have and the cost of being a great musician. Both of these ideas come across really well in the show but they’re unfortunately mired by some weak character choices along the way.

Ultimately though this feels like a melodrama designed exclusively for introverts. A lot of the problems the characters experience along the way could be so easily resolved if everyone just opened up and a bit and talked. It’s something that’s particularly irritating with rom-coms in the West, and here it’s a culprit for much of the run-time.

This isn’t an isolated incident; there’s umpteen number of times where characters are caught out for being silent and not expressing themselves. Then again, given the reserved nature of Koreans perhaps that’s intentional on the writers’ part. Either way, it makes for a pretty frustrating watch as you root for these characters to find happiness in the end.

If you’re in the mood for a music-themed drama that doubles down on the heartstrings then this is certainly a good one to choose. If you’re looking for something akin to Fight For My Way or Weightlifting Fairy though, you most certainly won’t find that here.

In the end, Do You Like Brahms serves up a pretty good slice of melodrama. While it doesn’t necessarily do anything outside the norm, it does manage to hit most of the right notes, making for a worthy composition worth checking out.

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  • Verdict - 7/10

3 thoughts on “Do You Like Brahms? – Full Season 1 Review”

  1. Yes, in many Korean shows the male characters can seem overly “reserved,” to Americans. But Korea has a very hierarchical culture, which is even reflected in their language — they speak differently to people depending on their age and status, relative to their own. Formality rules that culture, far more than in America. So it may be “a cultural thing” that Korean men often seem “unexpressive.” I thought at times that Joon-young could have cleared up some misunderstandings rather than allow Song-ah to be hurt by things she didn’t know, but I had to admit that his reasons for doing so were well-supported by the story. Joon-young had spent almost his entire life suffering in silence, because of his difficult family situation and his unrequited past love for Jyung-kyung. So he was inclined to “hold things in,” rather than let them out. Song-ah was painfully aware of the significance of the song “Träumerei” between Joon-young and Jyung-kyung, which is why Joon-young said he would never play it again. So when his teacher “stole” Joon-young’s performance of it and put it on Youtube, Joon-young went to great lengths trying to conceal this from Song-ah, knowing it would hurt her to hear it. The misunderstanding that followed ended up hurting her just as much, but there was simply no good choice Joon-young really had in that situation. True to his character, he chose “silence” to protect her, hoping the problem would go away. But it didn’t.

    I LOVED that the inspiration for the show was Brahms’ unrequited love for his colleague Schumann’s wife, Clara. This show really brought that to life, with TWO such love-triangles involving the six main characters. But what captivated me most was the show’s honest depiction of the collision between an artist’s love for their art, and the cruel realities of the highly political “business side” of art. Music as a career is very uncertain, and most musicians only enter into it out of genuine love and passion. When the world throws endless roadblocks in front of them for pouring their heart into something they love so deeply, an artist’s soul can become wounded. I spent much of my youth playing classical piano, so I’ll admit I was a sucker for this story, but I haven’t seen this theme so honestly portrayed, before. The scene where Song-ah says “goobye” to her beloved violin was especially poignant, for me. Her Senior Recital went extremely well, but she hadn’t won competitions or received notice when she was younger, and she knew the “Business” of Classical Music would only hire the more “promotable” names people already knew. So no matter how good she became, she could never sustain a career as a violinist. And it was time to finally let the instrument she’d poured her heart into for so many years go to someone else, who would do the same. Musicians develop a very intimate relationship with their instruments; even more so, I suspect, for violinists whose “partner” is such a delicate and fragile shell, but capable of such powerful emotion. Prized violins are often hundreds of years old; in good hands, they illuminate the joys and sufferings of humanity for generation after generation. Parting with something so historic, so connected to human emotion that it becomes an extension of the artist’s soul, is like a death. But in this case, Song-ah’s violin would live on and on. For her, letting it go was symbolic of her own death, or at least, the death of the dream that had defined her, until this point in life. But this separation was so painful, she could only do it gradually, over time. Letting go is hard. Just like Joon-young’s letting go of the 15 years he had silently loved Jyung-kyung couldn’t happen overnight, or the breakup of the 10-year relationship between Han Hyun-ho and Jyung-kyung. Thus, “Do You Like Brahms” explored one of life’s hardest lessons: that for new love to grow, sometimes an old love must die. The “thematic symmetry” between the difficult death-rebirth of the characters’ love-relationships in the show, and their passionate relationships with their art, was subtly but powerfully portrayed, I thought. So even if as an American I was sometimes frustrated that Joon-young could have been more forthcoming, I realized in hindsight that this was not only perfectly in line with his character and Korean culture, but also indicated that his transformation away from the feelings he’d held for Jyung-kyung for so long, to his new love for Song-ah, could only happen gradually. This painful separation from his past, and having to re-define his relationship with Jyung-kyung, paralleled and actually triggered his transition from gifted pianist who had come to hate his calling, to the rediscovery of his passion for piano. And this newfound passion would now forever be intertwined with Song-ah, the woman whose love caused him to reconnect with who he really was, and what he really wanted.

    I know, I know; Hollywood has force-fed Americans such a steady diet of “sex, drugs, rock ‘n roll” for so long, most Americans will be deeply uncomfortable with a TV show that dares examine the human condition, and explore matters of the heart. “Romance” has been a dirty word in Hollywood for a good 20 years or more. But for any American who still has a shred of humanity left, I can’t recommend “Do You Love Brahms” more highly. Especially for anyone who has ever dared follow a career path defined by true passion, and suffered the slings and arrows that inevitably follow.

  2. All Korean shows are like that. Either they don’t speak up or they lie. It’s so rampant in Korean dramas, it does make one wonder if it is a reflection of Korean culture.

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