밀회 (Milhwe)


Milhwe_01oI cannot believe it…! I just let myself get roped into a new drama live… arghhh! Oh, who am I kidding! I could have kept myself from falling into this trap. But I saw “piano prodigy” and saw Kim Hee Ae (recent of Midas), and then saw JTBC who last brought us Jeong Kyeong Ho’s brilliant 무정도시 (Heartless City) and I thought, “hmm, I wonder…?”

10 minutes in and I love it. Three minutes left to go in chapter 1 and am hooked… arghhh!

Now that I’ve seen the second chapter, I am reassured of one important thing: that this won’t be a “Mrs. Robinson gets naughty and robs the cradle” sort of affair. Rather, we have two pianists who discover in each other an incandescent passion for music, thus blurring boundary  lines that, ethically speaking, should not be crossed.


Beethoven plays a big part in this story already, as does Schubert. In the first two chapters alone, a Schubert duet for four hands (Fantasie, D. 940) emerges as an intrinsic part of the story development: our male protagonist, Lee Sun Jae, happens to hear two pianists rehearsing it on the night of a big concert, sneaks into the concert hall when they are gone and adapts what they were playing with four hands for only two hands so well that others who hear him think the two pros are still rehearsing. Lee Sun Jae gets spooked and runs, but of course he is caught by a professor, Kang Joon Hyung, who is scouting for talent and realizes that the young courier might be what he seeks. And thus changes the course of Lee Sun Jae’s life. He must play the Schubert Fantasie to the professor’s wife, Oh Hye Won, who confirms that he truly is a musical genius and seals the deal by playing the Fantasie with him – all four hands – and thus changes the course of her life.

During this same audition Sun Jae plays an unusually evocative Bach Prelude in C Major from the Well Tempered Klavier and we get to eavesdrop on snippets of something like seven different Beethoven sonatas (all middle period), including the Appassionata, Op. 57! It bears mentioning that the opening scene of chapter 1 has Oh Hye Won going over the program for the concert, elaborating that it will begin with Beethoven’s 5th Piano Concerto (which the DramaFever subtitles mistakenly identify as the 5th Symphony!) and during the concert we also get to hear one of his trios. Honestly, the choice of music could not be more fitting to the story. For who does longing, melancholy, euphoria, heat and ultimately consummation, better than Beethoven?

The passing strains of Chopin Etudes and Polonaises that we hear in some of the student audition tapes, and even Lee Sun Jae’s pristine Bach, all rather help underscore the story’s underlying current: this will not be a sentimental romance, nor a clinical affair. No. This affair will be one driven by that irresistibly magnetic need to become complete once you discover that a part of you resides in someone else.

This being cable, 밀회 (Milhwe) will not be PG rated. If 무정도시 (Heartless City) was any indication, JTBC is not afraid to go where regular prime timers fear to tread. However, unlike American television which invariably equates love between adults with mere sentiment and carnal appetite, there won’t be lascivious self indulgence masquerading as love in this story; Korean dramas are very ethically conscientious and they make a point of posing the difficult ethical questions. We already hear Oh Hye Won repeated citing the importance of ethical imperatives to the spoilt, self-indulgent Seo Young Woo:

“Things like “ethics” and “morality” exist for a reason. More than their value, they provide a valuable survival manual. If you break the traffic laws, accidents will happen. Don’t pass the STOP sign.”

So I am really curious about how they will handle the the problem of adultery and the transgression of the mentor-apprentice boundaries that have been established between the Oh Hye Won-Kang Joon Hyung couple and the young prodigy Lee Sun Jae.

And so, together with the music and the genius, the tragic yearning of such an ethically conscientious mentor and her entranced and besotted protégé could not possibly more earnestly evoke the spirit of Beethoven.

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3 Responses to 밀회 (Milhwe)

  1. DDee says:

    Hi there, I’m lurker here, and I’ve liked reading your posts for a long time, and I’m popping up say I’m glad you’re watching this drama! I hope you’ll continue to write bout it, especially about the music which I know next to nothing about and I’m dying to read/learn more of and how it relates to the characters, if at all. I suspect in a production such as this, with it’s attention to detail, the music will be curated with the utmost care.
    I’ve been excited for this one since I love the creative team’s previous dramas, so there was no way I’d let this one slip by. Glad to see you’re liking it too 🙂

    • Hello DDee, and well met! Thank you for visiting, for reading and for popping up! I love meeting fellow KDrama afficionados!

      I am doubly happy to meet someone else who is following Secret Love Affair live. It turns out that I have not live-watched anything for a while; it takes something pretty special to get me to commit to a drama that is still being broadcast – the last ones I watched live were Empire of Gold and Heartless City, and before that This Winter the Wind Blows, and naturally, I loved them! The main reason I don’t generally live watch is because I’ve taken to following KDramas the same way I read books — in long sittings at my leisure… So you can just imagine what torture the weekly live viewing schedule can be to my impatient, curious self…

      But I could not contain my delight at stumbling upon this gem of a drama, nor refrain from inhaling the first two episodes marathon style and then jonesing for this week’s installments! I love everything about it, most of all the music, so I will definitely be watching and listening closely, and scribbling down my thoughts on the story and the music, both of which are so beautifully commingled in this piece.

      And I will try to do it with patience [cross my fingers]. One of the side benefits that I’ve already discovered is that the story has me breaking out some of my Beethoven scores since they are playing bits and pieces of my favorite sonatas throughout the story as ambient music whenever some is wandering up and down the corridors of the music school.

      Ah joy! Maybe playing some of those favorites pieces in the time between weekly installments will help me keep an even keel in yet another deeply hunger-inducing live-watching endeavor! Here goes nothing!

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