Friday, December 16, 2011

Beethoven Virus Review (2008)

Drama Rating: ***
Personal Rating: Enjoyable

Kang Gun Woo (Kim Myeong Min), nicknamed "orchestra killer", is a world class conductor who, due to various circumstances, ends up leading an orchestra put together by Du Ru Mi (Lee Ji-Ah), concert mistress, and Kang Gun Woo (Jang Geun-Seuk), a police officer turned trumpeter. Will the orchestra be able to put up with Kang Maestro's insufferable personality?

*Spoiler warning*

The storyline started off quite well, with purpose and drive.  Quirky cast members were effectively introduced to the audience and the opening section of the series moved at a good pace. Aside from some minor issues with scenes occasionally jumping too much in terms of time lapsed in the drama, pacing was generally not an issue. However, the romantic twist added a strangely awkward angle to this drama; if the drama was a piece of music, it certainly added a strong dissonance it. While it may have been added as part of the plot development, it certainly detracted from the main storyline. The initial focus on Maestro Kang was a good decision although plot events eventually started to meander as the drama seemed to lose its direction and purpose as the story wore on.

Maestro Kang, masterfully portrayed by Kim Myeong Min, single-handedly drove the drama from start to finish. His superb portrayal of the unbearably perfectionist and fearsome Maestro Kang was well deserving of numerous acting accolades. Unfortunately, the performances by Lee Ji-Ah and Jang Geun-Seuk were a little lacking, particularly when in comparison to Maestro Kang. As one comparison, Maestro Kang's evolution as a conductor was clearly evident throughout the series, however Du Ru Mi, continually seemed to lack the self-confidence and authoritative air of a concert mistress.  And although Kang Gun Woo was portrayed to have naturally gifted musical abilities, his acting was not sufficient to convince the me of that gift nor did his conducting appear to improve throughout the series. The supporting cast was relatively strong and there was plenty of character development throughout the series. It was unfortunate that that development at times shifted the focus of the drama away from a drive towards some unified goal and, particularly in the latter part of the series, made the drama feel like it was moving in too many divergent directions.

The music selected for this kdrama was well chosen and the classical pieces struck the right balance in introducing classical music to the general public. Pieces such as Beethoven's 5th Symphony, 4th movement and the William Tell Overture definitely helped to bridge the gap. One particularly notable scene that stood out was the audition by Teacher Seo Hye Kyung, which was a very pleasant surprise and a gift to the ears.  Surprisingly, John Cage's 4 minutes 33 seconds was used to great effectiveness in the drama. Overall, the music for this series was well done, particularly for a drama about classical music. Inevitably, the comparison to Nodame Cantabile is bound to take place and I must admit that the selection of pieces for Nodame felt more natural, like fish to water.

Beethoven Virus is an interesting drama in that the lead character Maestro Kang entirely dominates the drama, which is not entirely a bad thing.  Kim Myung Min's acting is superb and easily carries the entire drama with him. Despite some weaknesses in the two main supporting characters and minor issues with the direction of the storyline, particularly in the latter stages of the drama, the character development and music somewhat made up for that. Overall, this is an enjoyable drama well worth watching.

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