I 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.