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Joo Won 주원- Welcome Back !

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Stopping by with some more pics!

 

Spoiler

Simple, but cool shot from "Yong Pal" - Mind you, the whole "black cap as disguise" thing is, to be honest, not all that effective - especially when you've got a professional hit-man on your tail AND he's already seen you once. But I can't deny that JW looks good in it!

 

 

And balance that out with a cute shot - this one from "Life Log"

 

 

JW at various awards shows over the years

 

 

A few casual-cool shots:

 

 

 

And some cute "Good Doctor" fanart to end it off

 

 

 

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I'm having a busy week now so I'll just share pictures that I found on Instagram :D

 

Pics!

 

Can't agree more. He is a talented and versatile actor. And he also a successful one.

 

 

His golfing appearance. Its an old picture. Maybe in 2016.

 

 

I love this video!

 

Handsome Joseon Bachelor.

 

This describes him! Loyal!

 

 

Click to see the comments. :wink:

 

 

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1 hour ago, moonstrike said:

I'm having a busy week now so I'll just share pictures that I found on Instagram :D

 

At least you're here - so regardless, I'm happy :D

 

1 hour ago, moonstrike said:

Handsome Joseon Bachelor.

 

Personally, I always find him a bit funny in historical hanbok - not because he looks bad in it (because he doesn't), but because whenever he's on set for "My Sassy Girl", he, like, towers over everyone and everything else. I just end up imagining a Joseon-era guy constantly bumping his head on ceilings and doorframes :tongue: Add to the fact that on "My Sassy Girl", Gyun Woo was way taller than everyone else in his family, and it just gets even funnier :D 

 

1 hour ago, moonstrike said:

This describes him! Loyal!

 

Giving a little side-eye to that picture of Qu Wei Ran there (because he was one of those whose loyalty turned into full-blown obsession) <_<

 

But anyways, I digress.

 

Other than that, I definitely second what was being said there :) JW is interesting in that he's an adventurous homebody - which sounds like a paradox, I know, but hear me out. Like, he's the sort of person who likes just staying close to home with family and friends, yet when the opportunity comes up, he's always willing to try new things and explore new places. That was, I remember, one of the main reasons why he was one of my favourites on 1N2D - you could see just how much of what the guys were seeing and doing (and eating!) were completely new to him, and you could see how much his hyungs loved teaching him and showing him these things. The fish market scene with Sung Si Kyung comes to mind, for instance :wink: 

 

1 hour ago, moonstrike said:

Click to see the comments. :wink:

 

Yeah - thanks for the story in those comments! I've always liked how JW looks out for the staff like that...except when winning a game is on the line (then, he's ditching the cameraman with no hesitation whatsoever :tongue:).

 

And, like 24snowhite, I also like seeing JW in darker and more neutral colours like that :) 

 

And now for pics!

 

Spoiler

JW all in white

 

 

Did I share this already? I don't remember :tongue: But if I haven't, here goes!

 

 

Nice shot from "Fashion King"

 

 

Here's another fun video - it was made to mark the 100th day of his enlistment

 

 

It's a mini Cha Yoo Jin! lol - A bit too big for the piano there, but otherwise...cute!!!

 

 

A number of shots from his V-Live broadcasts - I think it's cute how he always wishes viewers well like this, and how that's the one thing he falls back on when he's stuck with nothing to say :tongue:.

 

 

 

My fic's also coming along nicely as well. So here's Preview #3:

 

Spoiler

“Nae Il is the one who’s debuting tonight – so why am I the one who’s getting nervous?”

 

Standing beside me in the Solitär, the Mozarteum’s main recital hall, a short distance away from the door to the dressing room that branches off from the stage, Song Mi Na shoots me a look of sympathy. She is here for the concert in her capacity as Haneum’s Dean: the only faculty member among the several whom Nae Il and I have invited who has been able to attend.

 

“Well, Yoo Jin-ah,” she says, “that’s what happens when you care deeply for someone: you’re more invested in seeing them do well than you are in yourself.”

 

Something in her words – perhaps the warm, kindly tone that she uses – makes me think back to all the times when she had been nervous or jittery over the course of creating and establishing the Rising Star Orchestra. As the implications of what she is saying start to sink in, I feel one corner of my mouth twitch up in a knowing smirk.

 

“Is that a confession?”

 

“Mwo?”

 

“Nothing,” I say with a shrug, leaning back casually against the wall. “Just thinking back on old times.”

 

“What sort of old times?” Professor Stresemann asks as he approaches us, having spotted us – or, more specifically, Dean Song – a short distance away.

 

After giving him a deep nod in greeting, I start to explain. “The S Orchestra, the Rising Star Orchestra, my Grieg recital…all those times when Dean Song was more nervous than I was.”

 

“Well, you were all Haneum’s underdogs, and the Board of Directors would have been more than happy to see you fall if it would help them appease their investors. With so much at stake, it was hard not to worry. No thanks to you, Franz,” she adds at the end, shooting the professor a hard look.

 

A stricken look, one that I have seen far too many times and have thoroughly come to dread, flashes across Professor Stresemann’s face. Too late, I realize that the two of them are standing on either side of me, leaving me no chance to escape should they start bickering again.

 

“Mi Na, Mi Na…” he pleads, reaching past me to take one of her hands into his own, “how many times must I tell you? It was not my fault.”

 

“You abandoned us.”

 

“Against my will. Remember, Mi Na – I was dragged off!”

 

“For running out on your contract.”

 

“And if I hadn’t left it to come to Haneum, we wouldn’t even have a Rising Star Orchestra to speak of.”

 

“That still doesn’t change the fact that you got the whole mess started, then left Yoo Jin-ie and I to pick up the pieces!”

 

At this point, I try to intervene. I know from experience that neither Dean Song nor Professor Stresemann hold any hard feelings for each other – if anything, this is their version of a lovers’ spat, the two of them sounding for all the world like an old married couple, despite the fact that they have never gotten that far in their on-again-off-again relationship. But knowing that doesn’t make it any less awkward to be caught in the middle.

 

“Gwenchanayo, Dean Song, Professor,” I say in as gentle a tone as I could manage, raising my hands up in a placating gesture. “It really wasn’t much trouble at all.”

 

Sure enough, my interruption gets them both to stop.

 

“Jeongmal, Yoo Jin-ah?” Dean Song asks. “You had to put up with a lot back then.”

 

“Sure, it wasn’t easy,” I reply with a shrug, “but I think we all wound up the better for it. Besides, by the time we got to the Rising Star Orchestra, most of the trouble from the Board was due to stuff I did on my own. Professor Stresemann had nothing to do with it.”

 

That earns me a relieved look from him. “You see, Mi Na?” he says, placing a proud hand on my shoulder. “Cha Yoo Jin really is my apprentice; he knows to look out for his own teacher.”

 

“But when it comes to your dealings with Dean Song Mi Na, Professor, you’re on your own.” As the Professor stares at me, gobsmacked, I quickly excuse myself and make my escape, ducking down and passing through between them before making my way towards the stage.

 

From behind, I hear Professor Stresemann’s belated reaction:

 

“What – what did you– ya! You brat! Get over here!”

 

Refusing to turn back, I find myself having to bite back a rather devilish impulse to laugh. After all, the professor had told me once that he wanted an apprentice who could match him in terms of wit – I think I have just succeeded.

 

[...]

 

I guide her to take the seat in front of the dressing room mirror before pulling over a chair of my own.

 

“How are you feeling, Nae Il-ah?” I ask as soon as I have sat down.

 

She thinks for a moment, then gives me a nod. “Fine, I guess. Happy, excited – a little bit nervous.”

 

I reach out and take one of her hands. “Gwenchana,” I say, running my thumb against its back to soothe her. “It’s normal to be nervous just before going up on stage. But once you’re there…don’t think. Just feel. Let the music itself carry you away.”

 

She gives me a look. “Orabang….”

 

“Remember: concert, not competition, hm?” I remind her with a wink. “So just have fun with it.”

 

“Ne,” she answers with a nod.

 

Then, her gaze travels to the spot on my tuxedo jacket where she knows the inside pocket is located. “Did you bring it?”

 

“Of course!” I reach into that pocket now and pull out the hinged box that holds her necklace: my Christmas gift to her, a pendant showing a treble and bass clef entwined together in the shape of a heart. Taking it out of the box, I reach over and fasten the delicate chain around her neck.

 

Once I am finished, Nae Il places one hand over the pendant. “Komawoyo, Orabang. With this, even if I can’t see you, I can at least look at it when I’m scared and know that you are there.”

 

“There is one more thing,” I add, reaching once more into my pocket, this time to take out a sealed envelope. “This came for you earlier today.”

 

She takes the envelope from me and opens it to find a neatly folded card inside. As she pulls it out, recognition flashes across her face.

 

“Orabang,” she murmurs in quiet awe, “it’s like the one you got at the Mozart dinner concert we did in January.” Her eyes dart up to meet mine. “Did Abeonim send this?”

 

I answer with a nod before gesturing at the card. "Open it and see what it says."

 

After all, unlike me, Nae Il has never had any occasion to garner Abeoji’s criticism or scorn. In fact, were it not for him – his appreciation for her music, his help sorting out her registration for that competition so long ago – neither of us would be where we are today.

 

Whatever is written in this note, then, it can only be something good.

 

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Popping by with some more pics for today!

 

Spoiler

This meme cracked me up because it's so true!

 

 

Cha Yoo Jin collage

 

 

 

I like his smile here

 

 

Some shots from his advertisement for McCol

 

 

No particular reason for sharing these; I just like how they look :) 

 

 

 

Okay, this one's just funny :tongue: 

 

 

 

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On 4/16/2018 at 2:31 AM, kittyna said:

Personally, I always find him a bit funny in historical hanbok - not because he looks bad in it (because he doesn't), but because whenever he's on set for "My Sassy Girl", he, like, towers over everyone and everything else. I just end up imagining a Joseon-era guy constantly bumping his head on ceilings and doorframes :tongue: Add to the fact that on "My Sassy Girl", Gyun Woo was way taller than everyone else in his family, and it just gets even funnier :D 

Now you said it makes me realize that he is indeed towering everybody in the drama especially the women. Since they can't wear high heels or something to make themself look taller so it shows their real height difference with Joo won. They are about his shoulder or maybe shorter. It must be tiring that

they have to look up everytime they want to talk with Joo won :lol:. I noticed that there are nobody that higher than Joo won in the drama. Even though some of the men has almost same height as him but still Joo won is taller. He is such a tall big guy in Joseon Dynasty. But its makes him looks cute tho. 

 

On 4/16/2018 at 2:31 AM, kittyna said:

Other than that, I definitely second what was being said there :) JW is interesting in that he's an adventurous homebody - which sounds like a paradox, I know, but hear me out. Like, he's the sort of person who likes just staying close to home with family and friends, yet when the opportunity comes up, he's always willing to try new things and explore new places. That was, I remember, one of the main reasons why he was one of my favourites on 1N2D - you could see just how much of what the guys were seeing and doing (and eating!) were completely new to him, and you could see how much his hyungs loved teaching him and showing him these things. The fish market scene with Sung Si Kyung comes to mind, for instance

He is like a home-style-person (who loves to stay at home and drink tea in their break time) but he loves adventure and challenges. He always want to try something new and have a new experience in a good happy way. In 1N2D, he always do the challenge and did good at it. Never give up. Whether its for food or for his hyungs, he will do his best to win every game. Except quiz and additional game. He bad at that :lol:.

 

21 hours ago, kittyna said:

This meme cracked me up because it's so true!

I also had the same reaction as you when I first saw this pic. In that photo, Joo won face is so serious and he is like having a deep thought. But beside that, there is a caption saying funny and cute thing. It makes me imagine that Joo won really thinking about what food he will eat in the next meal everytime he put a serious expression :lol:

 

Now pics!

 

Always do this everytime I miss him

 

Vote as much as you can! I already vote 10 times today :lol:

 

 

Man that golfing is always hot.

 

Perfect posture 

 

The hanbok he wear makes him looks even taller and bigger. And he looks great with pink pajamas. Never seen a guy that looks perfect in pink simple hanbok pajamas. 

 

 

Can't agree more. He is charming.

 

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4 hours ago, moonstrike said:

Now you said it makes me realize that he is indeed towering everybody in the drama especially the women. Since they can't wear high heels or something to make themself look taller so it shows their real height difference with Joo won. They are about his shoulder or maybe shorter. It must be tiring that

they have to look up everytime they want to talk with Joo won :lol:. I noticed that there are nobody that higher than Joo won in the drama. Even though some of the men has almost same height as him but still Joo won is taller. He is such a tall big guy in Joseon Dynasty. But its makes him looks cute tho. 

 

The hats probably also make a difference, there - JW's taller than most to begin with, and those hats just add several more inches to his height :tongue:

 

4 hours ago, moonstrike said:

Vote as much as you can! I already vote 10 times today :lol:

 

I haven't decided yet if I'll vote, mostly because I don't really know what or who is running this poll, and am a bit leery about providing things like an e-mail address.

 

However, I will say that it's interesting that two of JW's dramas made the short list :) 

 

4 hours ago, moonstrike said:

Can't agree more. He is charming

 

I like how the caption put it: "simple intense" or "slightly intense". :) 

 

Sorry for the short replies - I'm rather busy today, so don't have much time (or mental faculties) to spare.

 

But anyway, here are some pics!

 

Spoiler

Saranghaeyo!

 

 

Emergency first aid in two different dramas: "Good Doctor" and "Yong Pal"

 

 

I remember this moment from his V-Live broadcasts - it was funny that JW never adopted a "normal" pose/face for his selcas. He was always making some sort of funny or silly face :tongue: They also turned out looking better in the video than in the photos themselves :D 

 

 

A few more nice pictures, just because.

 

 

 

 

 

By the way, is it just me, or did KBS World delete "Nae Il's Cantabile" off of YouTube? I can't find those full-length episodes anymore, and they'd only posted the first half to begin with :( 

 

Oh well, at least there's still the Instagram page I use for clips! :) 

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Here I am with today's pics!

 

Spoiler

This is awesome - a fan-made JW cake! I can't make out the writing on all the little placards on the bottom, but I can make out that some have the names of various characters JW has played (like, I'm seeing Lee Ho Tae, Woo Ki Myung, Nico, Sam Wheat...)

 

 

Photoshoot behind the scenes - It looks like this one was for Beansbins.

 

 

Loving this look on him - so simple, but so cool!

 

 

Raring up and ready to go!

 

 

Some more mask pics, where the only emotion you see is in his eyes

 

 

Contrast that with these - closed eyes and covered eyes that are just as expressive

 

 

 

And, finally, since I am nearing completion of my newest fic, here's the final preview - Preview #4:

 

Spoiler

Sometime later, after we have explored the composers’ exhibits to our hearts’ content, we come to a corridor that leads to a door through which, once again, music comes pouring out. I recognize it as Strauss’s Blue Danube Waltz, but this is unlike any other version of the waltz I have ever heard. Its tempo is, in a word, erratic – although messy might be an even better way of describing it.

 

Perking up in curiosity, Nae Il makes a beeline for the doorway, beckoning for me to follow after her. I approach a bit more reluctantly, not sure what I would find. But it’s because of my delay that Nae Il gets there first, coming to a halt just inside the doorframe before pressing a hand to her mouth to suppress a laugh.

 

“Orabang,” she whispers, grabbing my hand and pulling me, stumbling, beside her to peer inside. “Look!”

 

I follow her finger and there, I see the source for the strange music: a video screen showing a projection of the Vienna Philharmonic, but responding in real time to a live conductor. There is another visitor already there on the stand: a young man around my age, standing in front of the screen, waving a baton haphazardly through the air. Off to the side, a girl – his sister or girlfriend – is looking on, shaking in amusement as she films his antics with her phone.

 

It’s wrong – completely and utterly wrong. But more than the mistakes, it’s the guy’s attitude that irks me. Clearly, he and his partner derive some sort of humour from this reckless display: alternating between ridiculously fast and ploddingly slow, stringing the orchestra along like some sort of plaything.

 

Eyes narrowing, I take an instinctual step forward into the room, but Nae Il lunges out and grabs my hand, holding me back.

 

“Wait, Orabang,” she whispers. “They’re not finished yet.”

 

I shoot her a warning look before flinging myself free. “But he’s doing it all wrong,” I hiss back, careful to keep my voice down.

 

“I know – but not everyone takes music as seriously as you do. I thought you’d know that already.”

 

True. But this is different from the S Orchestra. This is not someone letting himself loose because he has become absorbed in the music. This is some jacked up smart alec who thinks conducting an orchestra is just standing there gesticulating madly with a baton while making funny faces.

 

“Just wait until they’re finished, Orabang,” Nae Il whispers, reaching up with one hand to pat me reassuringly on the shoulder. “Then go out there and show them how it’s really done.”

 

Finally, I feel myself start to relax, and a smile tugs at my lips. “Are those fighting words, Nae Il-ah?”

 

“Of course,” she answers with a nod. “You know I’ll always fight for you.”

 

As it turns out, I don’t have long to wait. It appears that whatever computer program is running this simulation has some sense of justice, because suddenly, the orchestra itself stops playing and, on the screen, the concertmaster stands up to scold the reckless conductor. He does so in a joking tone, of course, but still, I cannot help feeling a rush of vindication when, laughing, the girl gets up onto the stand and gives her partner a light smack on the arm.

 

Now, finally, Nae Il nudges me ahead. I cross the room in several brisk steps, approaching the pair just as they are coming down from the stand. I hold out one hand to the young man.

 

“May I?”

 

His eyes widen in surprise at my curt tone of voice, but then wordlessly, he hands me the baton: a simple clear plastic rod with a small red light inside. Instinctively, once I have it, I aim it down at the floor, then swish it back and forth a few times, slicing it through the air: whether a violin bow or a conductor’s baton, I have found this to be a good way to get a feel of its weight in my hand.

 

As I take the place the couple had just vacated, I hear Nae Il’s voice in the background, quietly encouraging them to stay for a few minutes longer. Glancing back over my shoulder, I find a fond smile coming to my face when I see her dash quickly out of the room, returning seconds later with an entire family – parents, children, even grandparents.

 

I suppose in this the two of us are alike: whenever one of us is performing, the other wants to generate an audience.

 

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Okay, I'm rather early for my daily pics post today - but that's because, finally, the new fic is done. So I want to leave myself plenty of time to post that later today :wink: 

 

So, here's the usual stuff for today, and I'll come by again later with the giant goody :) 

 

First things first: "Nae Il's Cantabile" got featured on a Dramafever list - 7 Asian shows that feel like a warm hug

 

Quotes from that post:

 

Quote

Sometimes you have a bad day, and you're in dire need of some consoling. When good old fashioned cheering up from your loved ones isn't enough, let the warm embrace of Asian programming make it all better. The shows on this list are mainly drama free and full of encouragement to get you motivated for a new day.

 

Quote

6. Tomorrow's Cantabile

Be serenaded by glorious classical music in this series about college musicians falling in love. Opposites attract when a musical prodigy (who is a bit of a perfectionist) meets a messy yet carefree classmate that loves to play by ear. Be on the lookout for other quirky classmates finding their matches too.

 

And now, moving on to the pics.

 

This time, again, it's Throwback Thursday. And we're going way back this time around - with a bunch of pictures I found from JW's stint on "Frees" in 2006.

 

Spoiler

 

 

 

lol - I love this next one: "HOLLA!!"

 

 

 

So, once again, I'll come by again later to post the new fic. But that's it for now :) 

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So here I am now to post the new fic!

 

Spoiler

Title: Rhapsody in Red

Drama: "Nae Il's Cantabile"

Characters: Cha Yoo Jin, Seol Nae Il

Premise: The time has now come for Seol Nae Il's first public concert as a student at the Mozarteum in Salzburg. And, as with Cha Yoo Jin's Grieg recital back home in Haneum, she has prepared a special message just for him. What is it, and how does he respond?

 

Note: this story is part of the set of sequel stories I've written for "Nae Il's Cantabile", which I am calling "Seolleim in Salzburg". Thus, in order to fully understand this story, I strongly advise you to read its predecessors first:

 

"The Sound of Christmas"

"Angel of Music, Come Down from Above"

"In Mozart's Name"

"Seollal, Seollebal, Seolleim"

"A Little Baroque, A Little Romantic"

 

Note on language: The way I see it, and the way I have done it in other stories in this series, is like this: when it's just Cha Yoo Jin and Seol Nae Il speaking with each other, it's in Korean; when they're speaking with anyone else, it's in German.

 

I had also mentioned once before that there are several dialects of German: "official" versions of German that are spoken in Germany and Austria, respectively, as well as a bunch of local dialects. Most of what I use here would apply to both dialects, with one exception, which I will mark out for you. So here is a glossary of the words/phrases I've used:

 

Bitte - Please

Grüss Gott - Hello (Austrian German; formal)

Ja - Yes

Fraulein - Miss (FYI: This does come across a bit formal and maybe even old-fashioned by now, but that's the sort of vibe I was going for in using it anyway.)

 

Also, one quick side note, also on language. I have Cha Yoo Jin addressing Nae Il's father as "Abang" here, which is the Jeju dialect equivalent of "Abeoji". Why that instead of "Abeonim" (which is usually how you'd address your friend's father)? Mostly to minimize confusion (since that's what Nae Il calls Cha Dong Woo already). The one other Jeju dialect term I use here (besides the obvious "Orabang", of course) is "Eomeong", which is the equivalent to the standard Korean "Eomeoni".

 

And now that that's said and done, on with the story!

 

Once again, please do not re-post any content from this story on any other website without my permission. You are welcome to share this story, but only by sharing the URL. Thanks!

 

Spoiler

Rhapsody in Red

 

“The first month, you spent on getting the pieces right. But this second one, Nae Il-ah, is about making them yours.”

 

Her eyes, which had been focused on our joined hands, dart up to look at mine.

 

“Eh?”

 

The two of us are sitting cross-legged facing each other on her bed, so close that our knees are just inches apart. One of her hands is held gently in mine as I slowly massage it, pressing firmly on each of her fingers in turn to loosen the tense muscles I feel underneath.

 

Since we reconciled from our fight a few weeks ago, I have made a point of doing this for Nae Il once every few nights, after she has already changed into her pajamas to get ready to go to bed. After all, at the rate that this is going, she needs it.

 

Preparations for Nae Il’s debut concert began in March, but it is now the beginning of April, and we have just come out of yet another one of the Mozarteum’s breaks: this one a two-week rest for Salzburg’s Easter Festival. However, instead of going out and enjoying ourselves with the celebrations, we have both been just as busy as ever, even in the absence of classes. All of our time has gone towards preparations both for this concert and the baroque ensemble’s performance at the Whitsun Festival this May: the two of us schlepping back and forth between campus and our apartment during the mornings and afternoons. Even in the evenings, which have been our only real time of rest these past few weeks, I have to almost physically restrain Nae Il from practicing further.

 

As much as I appreciate her tenacity and her determination, there is such a thing as too much. Experience has already taught me just how single-minded she could get once she has committed to mastering a piece – without me watching over her, she will inevitably injure herself trying too hard.

 

“By now,” I explain, switching my attention to massaging first the back and then the palm of her hand, “you already know how to play these pieces well. Of course, you already knew Schubert’s Fantasie, but I’ve been listening to your work on the other two as well. You’re making really good progress – in fact, you’re going faster than I thought you would at first.”

 

Nae Il gives me a shy smile in response. “Jinjja? You really think so?”

 

“Of course!” I say with a nod. “With what you have now, you’d be ready for any competition or exam the Mozarteum throws at you.”

 

She leans forward, glancing up at me with wide eyes. “Would I win?”

 

“Ya, Seollebal!” Stopping my work for a second, I give her a light warning tap on the nose. “Since when did you care for that sort of thing?”

 

“Since never,” she replies with a shrug. “But you do.”

 

Touché.

 

“Well, this time,” I retort, resuming the massage from where I had left off, “it’s different. Because we’re not talking about a competition or an exam. We’re talking about a concert.” I pause to look her pointedly in the eye. “Your concert.”

 

By now, I’ve almost finished with her right hand, but there’s one more thing I need to do before I can start with her left. Interweaving my own fingers with hers, holding onto and supporting her wrist with my free hand, I gently push upwards, carefully bending her hand backwards slightly in a stretch. Holding it for a brief count, I then pull back slowly before, with the hand that had been holding her wrist, stroking along the entire surface of her hand as I feel her start to relax.

 

This last part I always do in silence; I really need to concentrate to make sure I don’t overdo the stretch. But once it is done, I continue with my explanation as I start the entire process again on her left hand.

 

“I told Yoo Il Rak this once, and I’m saying it to you now: you need to put something of yourself in your music. You need to let loose and play with it a little – put your feelings in it and really make it yours.”

 

Nae Il’s eyes widen and she stares at me as though I had just sprouted horns.

 

“Weird coming out of me, isn’t it?” I ask, unable to hold back a soft chuckle at the look on her face.

 

She nods. “You were the one who kept telling me to follow what’s in the score, Orabang – you and Professor Do.”

 

“Geu rae; that’s true,” I concede with a nod of my own. “But there is a right time and place for everything: for playing by the book, but also playing from the heart.

 

“Did you know, Nae Il-ah, that I used to drive Professor Do nuts because of that?”

 

I don’t know how she manages to look even more surprised than she did before, but somehow, she does. Her eyes grow just a tiny bit wider, her brow goes up just a tiny bit higher, and this time, her mouth has even opened just a bit.

 

“It was when I was preparing for my own debut: the Grieg concerto,” I explain. My rubbing and kneading on her hand and wrist slow down as I call up the memories in my mind. “When it comes to giving students the technical skills and foundations they need to excel, Professor Do is the best that Haneum has to offer. But when it comes to creativity and expression…not so much. He kept thinking that competitions and concerts are the same thing, but they’re not.”

 

Nae Il gives me a small nod in understanding. “But then you worked with Milch,” she prods.

 

“Professor Stresemann, on the other hand, sometimes goes too far the other way. He advocates expression for expression’s own sake, but that doesn’t always work, either.” I look pointedly into her eyes. “He was the one who told you to just let loose during your first competition, wasn’t he: the Winter Wind and La Campanella.”

 

“How did you know?”

 

“I recognized it as soon as I heard and saw you playing. Objectively speaking, just looking at it from a pure musical sense, your performance was really good both times – especially La Campanella. I loved what you did with it there. But given that it was a competition…you know why you got the results you did, right?”

 

She nods once again. “Because I didn’t follow the score –”

 

“Geu rae.”

 

“And because I was angry while playing them.”

 

I rear back slightly, sucking in a sharp breath through my teeth. It had never crossed my mind that that was the state she had played in during that competition, but I’m glad she’s opening up about it now.

 

“You’re right. Even though you want to play your music with feeling, there are some emotions where you have to be careful about how to express them in your music.” I let go of her hand just long enough to hold up two fingers in demonstration. “Fear is one of them, and anger is the other. Even if you want your audience to feel those things, if you end up feeling them yourself, it’s far too easy to lose control of the piece.”

 

“So what should I do then, Orabang?” Nae Il asks me once I have resumed massaging her hand. “How should I play those pieces? What sort of feeling should I show in them?”

 

“That’s up to you to decide,” I answer.

 

She opens her mouth to go further, but I have just gotten to the wrist stretch on her left hand, so I hold up a finger, commanding her to keep silent until I have finished.

 

“There; that’s it for tonight,” I say once I am done, placing Nae Il’s hand in her lap before scooting backwards off of her bed. She responds by blowing me a kiss in thanks before crawling under her blanket, settling her two stuffed rabbit dolls beside her: one on each side of her pillow.

 

After exchanging a quick word of goodnight, I turn to leave her room. As I place my hand on the light switch by the door, however, the question she asked me makes me pause.

 

“Like I’d said earlier, Nae Il-ah,” I add, turning to glance back at her over my shoulder, “it’s your concert. What feeling or story you want to convey in your music, then, is something you need to decide on your own. But for starters, what I’d suggest is this: is there anything you want to say in particular to anyone in the audience?

 

“That’s what I kept in mind playing on the Grieg concerto – it might work for you as well.”

 

~~~~~

 

Nae Il is already waiting for me at the back of the shop by the time I get there. In my defence, however, she did not ask me to join her here until breakfast this morning, and I had already had a packed schedule.

 

Fortunately, it seems that my tardiness has not fazed her much at all; in fact, rather than waiting around for me, she has already gotten started on her own.

 

“Remind me once again why you can’t just do this by yourself,” I ask, my eyes scanning over the array of dresses she has chosen from the racks. “It’s not like you don’t already know how this works.”

 

“What if I just want your opinion as well, Orabang?” she asks, giving me her most innocent expression. Noting the skeptical look on my face, she adds, “Don’t make that face at me; you brought this on yourself. You were the one who bought me my first competition dress, after all.”

 

Feeling the blood rush up to my face, I immediately move to defend myself.

 

“Ya, Seollebal – don’t get any strange ideas into your head. I only did that because I saw the dress first. If I hadn’t grabbed it, Lee Yoon Hoo would have bought it for you instead – and we couldn’t have that!”

 

For a moment, Nae Il just stares at me, her eyes twinkling and her shoulders shaking slightly in mirth.

 

“Orabang,” she gasps out, just barely managing to hold in a laugh. “You…you seriously….”

 

I stare right back at her, my own eyes wide in confusion.

 

What did I say that was so funny?

 

But I don’t get a chance to think further on that, because, finally, unable to hold it back any longer, she bursts out laughing, her voice ringing out through the store.

 

Quickly, I lunge forward and place one hand over her mouth to shush her. “Ya, keep it down,” I hiss, glancing furtively behind me in fear that we have been overheard. Fortunately, this shop, which rents out both costumes and formalwear to many of the Mozarteum’s students, is relatively empty at this time of day, and the many racks of hanging clothes also obscure us from view. The only person giving us a strange look right now is the clerk on duty; she comes closer, asking if we need help with anything, but a warning raised eyebrow from me is enough to make her turn back around and ignore us.

 

“Point is,” Nae Il continues, taking a step back away from me once she has calmed down, “I want to know what you think. After all, you were the one who told me that there’s a difference between dressing for a competition and dressing for a concert.”

 

I did, actually – a long time ago.

 

Looking back, besides that first time, Nae Il had decided on her own what to wear to her competitions; using the dress I had bought her as a foundation, she had opted for costumes that were simple and plain, usually in black, white or both.

 

At the time, when she had noticed some of the brighter and more elaborate gowns the other girls among her opposition were wearing, Nae Il had asked me about that. And I had answered by telling her that those girls were dressing like they were performing at a concert rather than a competition.

 

Now, nodding as the memory comes back to me, I repeat what I had said then. It was advice I had first heard from Professor Stresemann while preparing for my own debut – in hindsight, I have somehow taken it to heart.

 

“You’re right, Nae Il-ah. In a competition, the focus should be on your music; dressing nicely but still simply keeps the judges from being distracted by how you look. But a concert is different. In a solo concert like this one, you want to be seen as well as heard. So something that grabs the audience’s attention would be good.”

 

Jerking my head towards the section of the rack where she had placed her selections, I prompt her to pick one and try it on for me. Smiling, she makes her selection – a dark blue lace dress that comes down to her knees – then disappears into one of the curtained changing rooms in the back of the shop.

 

Moments later, she comes out, an excited spring in her step as she skips towards me. I beckon her closer, then gesture for her to turn around so I could see the back of the dress as well. This dress is quite becoming on her; the skirt flares out and moves with her as she turns, and the lace overlay on its elbow-length sleeves reminds me of the long black gown she had worn to her competition here in Salzburg.

 

But there’s one more thing I need to check. Pointing back to the room she had just come out from, I ask, “Is there a chair or stool in there?”

 

Nae Il nods. “Ne, Orabang.”

 

“Bring it out here, juseyo.”

 

She shoots me a questioning look, but does as she is told. Once she has placed the chair in front of me, I take her by the hand and guide her to sit down. Taking a step back, I look her over, one finger absently rubbing my bottom lip.

 

“Just as I’d thought,” I point out after a moment. “It’s too short.”

 

Nae Il glances down at her lap, trying to see what I am talking about.

 

“Is it?”

 

To demonstrate, I crouch down beside her. With the side of my hand, I mark the place just above her knees where the hem of the skirt has ridden up. “Remember, Nae Il-ah: as a pianist, you will be sitting down when you perform, on a stage that could potentially be high above where your audience is.” I shift my hand to mark out a spot right in the centre of her kneecap. “For modesty’s sake, then, you want your skirt to hit you at least here when you sit down.” From that point, I sweep my hand down towards the floor. “Longer is good as well.

 

“But if you go for something longer….” My words trailing off, I gesture for Nae Il to stand up again and guide her to stand in front of a nearby mirror. Standing behind her, hovering my hands just over her hips, I, once again, sketch a line down towards the floor. “You don’t want something that’s either too fitted or too wide – either one of those could get in the way of using the pedal. You probably would have noticed by now, how most concert dresses have relatively straight skirts; that’s why.”

 

She nods at me in understanding, turning her head to look up over her shoulder at me with an appreciative smile.

 

Just then, I hear someone firmly clearing their throat behind me. Taking a startled step back away from Nae Il, I turn towards the source of the sound.

 

It’s the same clerk from before, her arms crossed as she gives me a hard look. She then glances pointedly past me at Nae Il.

 

“Is there anything I can help you with?”

 

I feel myself swallowing nervously, not sure what to say in response. But fortunately, Nae Il reacts faster than I do. She shoots the other woman a reassuring smile. “It’s not what you think, Madam,” she says. “Everything’s fine; I asked him to do that.”

 

The clerk doesn’t look convinced, but there’s little she could say to that. So, after giving a brusque, “Let me know if you need anything,” she turns and leaves us alone again.

 

As Nae Il ambles past me and sits back down on the chair, I stare at her, eyes wide in astonishment. “What was that about? What do you mean, ‘you asked me’?”

 

Now it’s her turn to look surprised. “You seriously didn’t know, Orabang? Why she was staring at us like that?

 

Well, I had thought the clerk had wrongly assumed that I was fondling Nae Il like some sort of pervert, but I’m not about to say that out loud. So, instead, I just shake my head.

 

She leans back breezily in her seat. “Here in the West, people think it’s inappropriate for a guy to have so much say over what a girl should or shouldn’t be wearing.”

 

“So, you’re telling me that you’re the one who dragged me here, asking for my opinion on how you should dress, and then I’m the one who gets in trouble because someone else thinks I’m being sexist?” My jaw drops in scandalized shock. “Ya, Seol Nae Il – in what universe is that fair?”

 

“Mianhaeyo; I didn’t mean to put you on the spot like that,” Nae Il replies, glancing meekly down into her lap. “But I honestly didn’t know it was like this in Europe, too.”

 

My eyes narrow as I cross my arms in suspicion. “Mwo? Where did you hear this about, then?”

 

“America,” she answers with a shrug.

 

America?

 

“Do you want to know who from?”

 

I shake my head and wave one hand in a dismissive gesture. “Ani. It doesn’t matter.”

 

Considering that she really only knows one person who’s been to America, I could already guess easily enough – and I’d rather not hear his name right now.

 

As if I need yet another reminder that Lee Yoon Hoo is better with these social graces than me.

 

Nae Il gives me a penetrating look, as though she could see exactly what I’m thinking. But, given that, she is also gracious enough not to push the subject further, instead getting up and disappearing into the changing room with a second dress.

 

This time, I can tell that she has kept my suggestions in mind, opting for a light pink dress with a wider skirt that ends about halfway down her calf. Interestingly, it has neither sleeves nor shoulder straps; instead, the dress’s neckline sweeps elegantly across her shoulders and upper arms in a gentle heart-shaped line that dips down slightly in the centre: hinting at the curve of her breasts underneath without actually showing anything.

 

For someone like me, who is used to seeing Nae Il’s more modest style, just that subtle clue is enough to make me feel a rush of longing and desire that I must fight to squash down. After all, now is not the time or place to stare. So although I know my eyes widened and my jaw dropped instinctively at the sight of her, I try to school my features back into a more neutral expression as I beckon her to join me.

 

She does as she is told – sitting down on the chair to double-check the skirt’s length, even though we could both see it is an easy pass this time around, then coming to stand before me in front of the mirror again.

 

“What do you think, Nae Il-ah?” I prompt.

 

If it were up to me, I would think that this dress was perfect. After all, it has her personality and style written all over it:

 

Innocent and girlish, but still a woman – that’s who Seol Nae Il is to me.

 

But to my surprise, Nae Il purses her lips into a slight frown and her brow furrows as she looks at herself.

 

“What’s the matter? You don’t like it?”

 

Nae Il turns slightly this way and that in thought, the skirt swishing along with her movement. She crosses her arms for a second, then taps one finger against her chin.

 

“I do like it, Orabang,” she finally says slowly, “but I don’t think this is the one. Maybe for another occasion, but not this concert.”

 

“Why not?”

 

“Because it’s not saying what I want it to say.” She turns around to look me in the eye. “It’s not showing the side of me that I want my performance to show.”

 

Understanding dawning upon me, I give her a nod and a small reassuring smile. Since I had first brought up the idea of her concert being a chance at self-expression a few weeks ago, I know that she has been putting some serious thought into her performance. In her practice in our music room, I have heard her experimenting with different tempos and dynamics, playing with flourishes and ornamentations.

 

Now there is only a week left until her concert, and I wonder at the vision that Nae Il has in her head. Clearly, whatever it is, the way she looks has to do with it; trying on this dress, then, has been yet another one of her experiments, and from the look on her face, it is a failed one.

 

Reaching out and taking hold of her shoulders, I give her a light squeeze. “Gwenchana,” I tell her, bending down slightly so that I could speak directly in her ear. “Sometimes, we don’t know that something isn’t what we want until we try it out.”

 

After a moment’s pause to give her a chance to process what I have just said, I pull away and straighten myself back up.

 

“Is there something you had in mind, Nae Il-ah?” I offer. “Perhaps I could help you find it.”

 

Finally cracking a smile in thanks, she glances back and forth between the reflection in front of her and me behind her. Then, finally, after squinting her eyes and peering closer at the mirror in thought for a moment, she shakes her head.

 

“Gwenchanayo, Orabang. I think I know what I want now.”

 

“Geu rae? What?”

 

Her smile widens into her characteristic mischievous grin. “It’s a secret.”

 

“Arasseo,” I concede with a nod, taking yet another step back away from her. “If that’s the case, then I’ll leave you to it, Nae Il-ah. You know the rules by now, so I’m sure whatever you come up with will be amazing.”

 

I bob my head in a slight bow and turn to make my leave. But when I have just taken a few steps, I hear her coming up behind me and feel her arms wrapping around my waist in a backhug.

 

“Komawoyo, Orabang,” she murmurs into my back, her cheek pressed against my jacket.

 

Feeling the trust Nae Il has in me, I feel a rush of relief in turn as I allow myself a moment to relax into her embrace. I wasn’t sure if I was actually of all that much help before, but now I know I was, even if I was just standing by as she worked things out on her own.

 

After all, has that not been my goal all along?

 

~~~~~

 

“Nae Il is the one who’s debuting tonight – so why am I the one who’s getting nervous?”

 

Standing beside me in the Solitär, the Mozarteum’s main recital hall, a short distance away from the door to the dressing room that branches off from the stage, Song Mi Na shoots me a look of sympathy. She is here for the concert in her capacity as Haneum’s Dean: the only faculty member among the several whom Nae Il and I have invited who has been able to attend.

 

“Well, Yoo Jin-ah,” she says, “that’s what happens when you care deeply for someone: you’re more invested in seeing them do well than you ever were for yourself.”

 

Something in her words – perhaps the warm, kindly tone that she uses – makes me think back to all the times when she had been nervous or jittery over the course of creating and establishing the Rising Star Orchestra. As the implications of what she is saying start to sink in, I feel one corner of my mouth twitch up in a knowing smirk.

 

“Is that a confession?”

 

“Mwo?”

 

“Nothing,” I say with a shrug, leaning back casually against the wall. “Just thinking back on old times.”

 

“What sort of old times?” Professor Stresemann asks as he approaches us, having spotted us – or, more specifically, Dean Song – a short distance away.

 

After giving him a deep nod in greeting, I start to explain. “The S Orchestra, the Rising Star Orchestra, my Grieg recital…all those times when Dean Song was more nervous than I was.”

 

“Well, you were all Haneum’s underdogs, and the Board of Directors would have been more than happy to see you fall if it would help them appease their investors. With so much at stake, it was hard not to worry. No thanks to you, Franz,” she adds at the end, shooting the professor a hard look.

 

A stricken look, one that I have seen far too many times and have thoroughly come to dread, flashes across Professor Stresemann’s face. Too late, I realize that the two of them are standing on either side of me, leaving me no chance to escape should they start bickering again.

 

“Mi Na, Mi Na…” he pleads, reaching past me to take one of her hands into his own, “how many times must I tell you? It was not my fault.”

 

“You abandoned us.”

 

“Against my will. Remember, Mi Na – I was dragged off!”

 

“For running out on your contract.”

 

“And if I hadn’t left it to come to Haneum, we wouldn’t even have a Rising Star Orchestra to speak of.”

 

“That still doesn’t change the fact that you got the whole mess started, then left Yoo Jin-ie and I to pick up the pieces!”

 

At this point, I try to intervene. I know from experience that neither Dean Song nor Professor Stresemann hold any hard feelings for each other – if anything, this is their version of a lovers’ spat, the two of them sounding for all the world like an old married couple, despite the fact that they have never gotten that far in their on-again-off-again relationship. But knowing that doesn’t make it any less awkward to be caught in the middle.

 

“Gwenchanayo, Dean Song, Professor,” I say in as gentle a tone as I could manage, raising my hands up in a placating gesture. “It really wasn’t much trouble at all.”

 

Sure enough, my interruption gets them both to stop.

 

“Jeongmal, Yoo Jin-ah?” Dean Song asks. “You had to put up with a lot back then.”

 

“Sure, it wasn’t easy,” I reply with a shrug, “but I think we all wound up the better for it. Besides, by the time we got to the Rising Star Orchestra, most of the trouble from the Board was due to stuff I did on my own. Professor Stresemann had nothing to do with it.”

 

That earns me a relieved look from him. “You see, Mi Na?” he says, placing a proud hand on my shoulder. “Cha Yoo Jin really is my apprentice; he knows to look out for his own teacher –”

 

“But when it comes to your dealings with Dean Song Mi Na, Professor, you’re on your own.”

 

As the Professor stares at me, gobsmacked, I quickly excuse myself and make my escape, ducking down and passing through between them before making my way towards the stage.

 

From behind, I hear Professor Stresemann’s belated reaction:

 

“What – what did you– ya! You brat! Get over here!”

 

Refusing to turn back, I find myself having to bite back a rather devilish impulse to laugh. After all, the professor had told me once that he wanted an apprentice who could match him in terms of wit – I think I have just succeeded.

 

Just then, the dressing room door opens and Nae Il’s father steps out into the main auditorium. When our eyes meet, he beckons me over.

 

“Abang,” I say, greeting him the way Nae Il likes me to, “how are things going in there?”

 

He glances back behind him into the room. “They’re just about finishing up.”

 

Eomma and Nae Il’s mother and grandmother have been spending the past while getting her ready for tonight’s concert: hair, makeup, dress, all of it. Just a few minutes ago, they had finally let her father into the room with them. He was in charge of the photographs for tonight, and Nae Il had wanted some shots of the process for our photobook, which, at her insistence, is still a work in progress.

 

Now, Eomma squeezes out past him, a wide grin on her face. “We’re all ready now,” she announces proudly.

 

Both of them step aside, clearing a way for me. But before I could even cross the threshold, Eomma suddenly holds up a hand to stop me. Then, to my surprise, she steps behind me, reaching up to cover my eyes with her hands.

 

“What’s this?” I ask, laughing softly at how childish she’s acting.

 

“Don’t ask,” she murmurs behind me as, slowly, she guides me into the room. “This was Nae Il’s idea.”

 

I only need to take a few steps before Eomma tells me I could stop. Still unable to see, I could only hear Nae Il giggling in the background, and her mother and grandmother saying something to each other in hushed tones.

 

I’m about to ask everyone what all the fuss is about, but just then, Eomma finally uncovers my eyes.

 

Immediately, all the words I could have said fly from my mind, leaving only speechless wonder in its place.

 

Because there, right in front of me, is Nae Il. Not the Nae Il I know, but one I have never seen before.

 

Her face is the same. The warm smile she gives me is the same. But this Nae Il is not a cute, innocent girl. She is a woman – and she knows it.

 

Much of that image, I know, comes from how she is dressed. She is wearing a red sleeveless dress that goes almost all the way down to the floor, the skirt skimming her hips before flaring out just slightly around her. The bodice and shoulder straps are covered with red roses made out of lace, forming a deep V-shaped neckline that, when she turns around, is revealed to continue into a similarly deep V in the back. From a distance, it would appear that that’s all there is on top; but a closer look reveals a sheer white panel, just barely lighter than her fair skin, filling in what is actually a higher, more modest neckline.

 

A woman in a red dress. That iconic image of temptation and seduction. Passionate fire and burning racing blood.

 

And Nae Il, that damned Nae Il – my damned Nae Il – knows exactly what effect she is having on me. I can see it in the knowing flirtatious look in her eyes, the way her lip twitches up just ever so slightly into a coyly inviting smile.

 

And for a moment, there is nothing more that I want than to give in to that temptation. My heart racing, my muscles tensing in anticipation, I long to lunge forward and kiss her ardently on the lips.

 

But of course I can’t. Not here. Not now. Not when there are so many others – Eomma and her parents and grandmother – in the room with us. So barely, just barely, I manage to hold myself back, stepping forward only to seize her hands into my own.

 

“Aigoo…would you just look at him?” I hear Nae Il’s grandmother’s voice just on the edge of my awareness.

 

“If he’s looking like this already, Eomeong,” her mother answers, “imagine what would happen on his wedding day. The poor boy might just faint!”

 

Normally, hearing something like this, I would feel myself cringing in embarrassment. But tonight, miraculously, I don’t care. Because in that moment, all that matters to me is Seol Nae Il; everything else – everyone else – is irrelevant.

 

The arrival of Nae Il’s professor breaks the spell that she has cast over me, and I find myself glancing back to give him a nod of acknowledgement when he invites us all to take our seats in the auditorium. Once I have translated his words to the others, they nod their assent and begin gathering up their belongings to head outside.

 

I would have joined them too, if at that moment, Nae Il had not suddenly reached out and grabbed onto my hand, bringing me to a halt. Taking a step closer, she peers out from behind me at her professor.

 

“How much longer until the concert begins?” she asks.

 

“About half an hour.”

 

“If that’s the case, Professor –” she tightens her hold on my hand “– could Yoo Jin stay for just a while longer?”

 

Her professor and I exchange hesitant looks. I, at least, understand why Nae Il’s asking for this, but I am also aware that there’s not much time before she is set to begin – and with a duet with him, no less.

 

“Bitte, Professor. Yoo Jin’s always been there with me before all my performances,” she adds imploringly. “It would make me feel so much better if he could do that again.”

 

Finally, after yet another moment’s hesitation, he agrees with a nod. “All right, Nae Il; if you really think it will help calm your nerves before you begin,” he concedes. “But,” he adds, shooting me a warning look, “don’t be too long.”

 

I give him a slight bow in assent. “Of course, Professor. I’ve done this before, so no need to worry.”

 

Moments later, we find ourselves finally alone. By now, the initial surprise at seeing Nae Il like this has passed, and the temptation to kiss her has also been brought under control. So, instead, I guide her to take the seat in front of the dressing room mirror before pulling over a chair of my own.

 

“How are you feeling, Nae Il-ah?” I ask as soon as I have sat down.

 

She thinks for a moment, then gives me a nod. “Fine, I guess. Happy, excited – a little bit nervous.”

 

I reach out and take one of her hands. “Gwenchana,” I say, running my thumb against its back to soothe her. “It’s normal to be nervous just before going up on stage. But once you’re there….Don’t think; just feel. Let the music itself carry you away.”

 

She gives me a look. “Orabang….”

 

“Remember: concert, not competition, hm?” I remind her with a wink. “So just have fun with it.”

 

“Ne,” she answers with a nod.

 

Then, her gaze travels to the spot on my tuxedo jacket where she knows the inside pocket is located. “Did you bring it?”

 

“Of course!” I reach into that pocket now and pull out the hinged box that holds her necklace: my Christmas gift to her, a pendant showing a treble and bass clef entwined together in the shape of a heart. Taking it out of the box, I reach over and fasten the delicate chain around her neck.

 

Once I am finished, Nae Il places one hand over the pendant. “Komawoyo, Orabang. With this, even if I can’t see you, I can at least look at it when I’m scared and know that you are there.”

 

“There is one more thing,” I add, reaching once more into my pocket, this time to take out a sealed envelope. “This came for you earlier today.”

 

She takes the envelope from me and opens it to find a neatly folded card inside. As she pulls it out, recognition flashes across her face.

 

“Orabang,” she murmurs in quiet awe, “it’s like the one you got at the Mozart dinner concert we did in January.” Her eyes dart up to meet mine. “Did Abeonim send this?”

 

I answer with a nod before gesturing at the card. “Open it and see what it says.”

 

After all, unlike me, Nae Il has never had any occasion to garner Abeoji’s criticism or scorn. In fact, were it not for him – his appreciation for her music, his help sorting out her registration for that competition so long ago – neither of us would be where we are today.

 

Whatever is written in this note, then, it can only be something good.

 

For my benefit, Nae Il reads it out aloud:

 

I thank you for your invitation to attend your first solo concert. Unfortunately, I am unable to come in person, but please accept my congratulations.

 

That your debut recital should be at something as illustrious as the Universität Mozarteum in Salzburg is an honour that I know you will cherish for life. I hope that this concert will serve as a beginning – a portent of greater things to come.

 

Clara, look to your Robert. Send him my regards, and remember to always stay by his side. Only with you beside him will he be able to shine.

 

Coming to the end of Abeoji’s letter, Nae Il’s brow furrows in confusion. “‘Clara’? ‘Robert’? What’s Abeonim getting at?”

 

Unlike her, I get the reference right away; years spent with Abeoji had taught me his way of making allusions and references to musicians of the past to talk about the present. So, to help her out, I gesture at the two names in the letter. “Doesn’t that ring a bell – ‘Clara’ and ‘Robert’, together as a pair?”

 

When she shakes her head, I let out a dramatic sigh in mock-exasperation. “Aish, Seollebal – when are you going to learn to pay attention in your history lessons? He’s talking about Clara and Robert Schumann!”

 

Hearing it that way, Nae Il’s eyes light up in recognition.

 

“Oh! I get it now!” Her words speeding up in her excitement, she dives right into the story. “He was a pianist, and she was his piano teacher’s daughter, and they fell in love, but her father didn’t like that and tried to stop them, but true love prevails anyway and they end up getting married. But then there was some sort of injury or accident or something so that he couldn’t play the piano anymore, so he became a composer instead, and she would perform his works in public and support them both.”

 

As Nae Il gave her rendition of the Schumanns and their story, my eyes grow gradually wider and wider in amused astonishment until finally, unable to hold back any longer, I burst out laughing.

 

She freezes up almost mid-sentence at my interruption.

 

“What? What is it? Did I get something wrong?”

 

Quickly, I shake my head to reassure her. “Ani. You got it right,” I gasp, my own words coming out in short bursts. “It’s just – just that – well, the way you got so into it…” And I can’t go any further than that because I start laughing once again, this time with her joining me.

 

It doesn’t take long, though, before the smile slowly fades from Nae Il’s face.

 

“But the story doesn’t end well, does it? Robert…Robert Schumann died young. He left Clara all alone.”

 

I answer with a solemn nod. “He battled with depression all his life and admitted himself into an asylum for the rest of his days when it finally became too much to bear,” I respond, my voice hardening as, just now, I notice the jab at me that Abeoji – passive-aggressive as ever – had hidden in his message. “But once again, that’s where Clara comes in. She continued promoting her husband’s work for the rest of her life – and although she hid and even destroyed some of his final compositions, those he produced in his darkest moments, I like to think that it’s because she wanted the world to remember him at his best and happiest.”

 

Nae Il lets out a long sigh. “Why must the best love stories always be so sad, Orabang?”

 

Realizing where this conversation is going, I lunge forward and take hold of her hand once again. “Because only in knowing sadness will we come to understand joy,” I say, giving her hand a firm squeeze. “You’ve come through so much to get to this point, Nae Il-ah – so just enjoy this: your moment of triumph.”

 

~~~~~

 

In my opinion, there is no better place for Nae Il’s debut than the Solitär in the Mozarteum. The auditorium, after all, is designed to perfectly draw attention to and frame the performer. The stage is a raised platform at the front of the room; the seats in the audience, arranged not in tiers but in simple rows, extend back into the long, rectangular room. Behind the stage, floor-to-ceiling windows open to a wide stone loggia overlooking her favourite Mirabell Gardens below and offer a view of the evening sky: a natural dark backdrop that draws the eyes to the illuminated platform and the piano under the spotlights.

 

In the past, during her competitions and other performances, I would sit or possibly even stand someplace off by myself, unseen and unnoticed by anyone save Nae Il herself. But this time, due to my rather ambiguous place as one of the family, I am together with the others: seated beside Eomma in the centre of the second row, Nae Il’s parents and grandmother clustered together in the row ahead of me.

 

As Nae Il comes up onto the stage, taking her place on the piano bench beside her professor, the first feeling that comes to my mind is a sense of completion. Time seems to slow down as I find myself holding my breath in anticipation.

 

Finally, all the weeks of hard work have come to fruition.

 

The first piece in her programme – the duet, the four-handed piece she will perform with her professor – is Schubert’s Fantasie in F-Minor. It starts off slow, languid, the bass playing rumbling chords like waves as the treble – Nae Il – sings a sad lyrical melody. But then, suddenly, almost without warning, the music explodes into a strident march-like tune that alternates back and forth with the earlier theme. Sometimes poignant, sometimes angry, sometimes contemplative, sometimes explosive – the Fantasie is tumultuous, ever-changing.

 

It has been said that Schubert composed this piece in a moment of turmoil, pining after an unrequited love. And, having played this piece with Nae Il before, just for fun in our music room at home, I can see why. The two pianists – the treble and bass – are continuously intertwined in an intricate dance: trading the melody and harmony back and forth, to and fro, their hands and bodies oftentimes brushing against each other in the exchange. I could easily imagine that Schubert had written with a vision in his mind: he and the woman who had stolen his heart playing together, side by side, two lovers in a passionate embrace, not in body but in spirit and song.

 

Listening to Nae Il play, watching her engaged in this intimate dance with another man, seeing the look of utter absorption on her face as she surrenders herself to the music, I suddenly hear a voice in my head.

 

Nae Il’s voice.

 

I don’t want to play a duet with the professor. Because that’s ours! Those four-handed pieces, they’re our music – yours and mine!

 

Our music. Mine and hers.

 

At the time, I had told Nae Il she was being ridiculous, that it was childish and immature to claim such a monopoly on music. We had even quarrelled about it – our first real fight since moving in together.

 

But now…but now….

 

I feel Nae Il’s music reaching out to me, seeping into my very being. It is a plea. An invitation.

 

She is calling out to me, and I want to answer. The desire that wells up in me is overwhelming, all-encompassing, heartwrenching.

 

I want to be up there. It should be me up there! I want to be the one beside her, touching her, making this music with her!

 

Suddenly, I feel someone take my left hand in theirs. Glancing over to that side, I see that it is Eomma. When our eyes meet, she gives my hand a little squeeze and pulls me close; unbeknownst to myself, instinctively, I have raised myself up a little in my seat, and it is only her firm hold on me that is bringing me back to reality.

 

“Ara, Yoo Jin-ah,” she murmurs. “Ara.”

 

As I look at her, our faces obscured in the darkness of the auditorium, I am astonished by the way her eyes glisten in the dim light. Urgently, I turn my hand around in hers so that our palms are touching and our fingers are intertwined, then give her a firm squeeze of my own.

 

“Eomma, gwenchana?”

 

In a flash, she averts her eyes from mine, reaching up with her free hand to brush away the tears I had seen. And in that moment, it comes to me. Why she’s acting this way. Why she knows how I am feeling.

 

“Clara and Robert,” I begin, once again pressing my palm firmly against hers. “Is that what this is about?”

 

It’s telling that Eomma knows what I am asking, even without my saying it directly.

 

“Twenty-five years. Can you believe it’s been twenty-five years since your father and I played a four-handed piece together like that?” She squeezes my hand again. “Make yours last, Yoo Jin-ah. Love her. Cherish her. She has given you her heart; make sure you give her yours as well.”

 

Longing. Desire. That’s what Schubert tried to express in his Fantasie.

 

That’s what Nae Il stirs up inside of us.

 

~~~~~

 

Compared to the turmoil that was her performance of the Schubert Fantasie, Nae Il’s rendition of her second piece, Busoni’s transcription of Bach’s violin Chaconne, goes by relatively uneventfully.

 

Not that it is boring, by any means. The Bach-Busoni Chaconne is rich and colourful and dense; Busoni’s expansion on the violin solo, the layers of harmony he added to that single melodic line, create a series of deeply layered chords, rapidly running scales, using the piano’s entire keyboard to its full potential. In Nae Il’s hands, the piece is once again running over with emotion. Slow and stately and majestic, the piano sounds like an organ, turning the music into a heartfelt prayer. There is something sacred, almost holy, about it; even at its loudest and most strident, the Chaconne as Seol Nae Il plays it feels like a respite, calming my spirits after the torture that was her Fantasie.

 

And if the Chaconne is my prayer, then Nae Il’s final piece, Liszt’s Rhapsodie Espagnole, is her answer.

 

Like many composers before and after him, Liszt was building upon classic Spanish melodies: the slow and stately Folía, and the light and sprightly Jota Aragonesa. With both of these themes, he spun a broad meandering piece of music: a series of variations, one after another, seemingly without break or end, sometimes emphasizing one theme, sometimes the other.

 

Although I have never played the Rhapsodie myself, I have heard many recordings of it, and have even seen it performed on stage a number of times over the years. Given that, there is little in the piece that can surprise me. With each iteration, each variation, I know what to expect: what it sounds like, what should come next.

 

But this time, this time it’s different.

 

At its core, a rhapsody is about freedom; by rights, it should feel improvised, as though the pianist has simply made it up on the spot. Of course, to actually do so would be impossible, but such is the task set before the performer: creating spontaneity where there is already a set score.

 

Yet, somehow, Seol Nae Il is doing it.

 

They’re all little things: a bass chord played an octave higher or lower than it should be here, a little flourish or ornament there. Additional quick runs and scales to connect sections and variations that would otherwise feel abrupt and disjointed. Variations in tempo to emphasize the swaying, free-flowing nature of the melody. I can hear all the subtle changes Nae Il has made to the music, all the times she has deviated just fractionally from the score.

 

Back when I had first met her, I would have been appalled. But this time, what should feel wrong feels perfectly right.

 

Spontaneous. Improvised. Pure and natural emotion, without calculation.

 

The Rhapsodie seems to almost pour right out of her, captivating and consuming her even as it sweeps me along with it. And by the time Nae Il brings the piece to its passionate conclusion, adding one last flourish to round it all off, I know that she has done it.

 

Seol Nae Il has made her mark on the world.

 

I’m not the only one who has noticed it. As soon as she is finished, the auditorium breaks out into enthusiastic applause – a standing ovation.

 

From my place in the audience, I can see just how much she has poured into this concert. Nae Il is swaying slightly on her feet when she gets up from the bench; she has to grab onto the side of the piano to regain her balance before she could step up to the front of the stage to take her bows. When she does, rather than a standard curtsey, she places both hands in front of her lap, then bends down entirely from the waist; just barely, I can see the way she has to brace herself before straightening back up again.

 

In that moment, our eyes meet. Immediately, Nae Il breaks into a bright smile before turning to make her way to the steps on the side leading down from the stage, walking as quickly as her tired legs would allow her.

 

I feel Eomma grabbing me by the hand. And before I could resist, she is tugging me along to the end of our row of seats before shoving me – hard – towards the stage.

 

Stumbling forward a few steps, I find myself lurching to a halt right in front of Nae Il; having seen Eomma’s actions from afar, she has rushed over to meet me. I take in the look of shock and awe on her face, the way her chest and shoulders rise and fall with her deep breaths; from the way her eyes skim over me, I can tell she is noting the same. Even without touching each other, we both can tell that our hearts are beating as one: both at the same frantic pace that pounds in our ears and turns our faces red.

 

And then the dam breaks. Unable to hold it back any longer, I lurch forward and wrap my arms around her, pulling her into a tight embrace. Desperately, I cling to her, my head resting on her shoulder, our bodies pressed together. Nae Il returns in kind, her arms reaching up to encircle around my back and hold me close.

 

Somewhere in the back of my mind, I know we are not alone, that everyone else in the auditorium can see it. In fact, that is the only thing keeping me from kissing her right now. But otherwise, I could not bring myself to care. The call to me that Nae Il has woven throughout her music makes this not only something that I want, but something that I urgently need.

 

“What have you done to me, Nae Il-ah?” I whisper in her ear. “Is this what it feels like to be possessed?”

 

~~~~~

 

“Well, that was quick.”

 

“What? We’ve got a review already?” Scrambling down from her bed in our hotel room, she hurries across to mine, climbing up and getting behind me so that she could look over my shoulder at my phone. “Let me see!”

 

Nae Il’s concert was yesterday, and today, we are in Vienna on a – in my opinion – well-deserved holiday. Taking advantage of the fact that the performance was on a Friday and that our families were scheduled to fly back to Korea from the airport in Vienna this morning anyway, the two of us have taken this chance to have a free weekend in the capital to ourselves, even managing to take Monday off so that we won’t have to rush back to Salzburg at the end.

 

By now, it is early afternoon and, having already seen everyone off, we are just settling into our room in the Hotel Astoria. As far as accommodations go, this hotel is a bit of a splurge, but one that, after some consideration, we both decided was well worth the money. For one, it is in a historic building done in the Imperial style of the turn of the last century – something that Salzburg lacks. But more importantly, the Astoria is situated right in the centre of Vienna’s classical music hub: a few minutes’ walk away from the Opera House and the Musikverein, where we had attended a performance of the Vienna Philharmonic this past New Year’s Eve. Even if we do not plan to go to a concert this time around, there is still something particularly special and precious about being so close by. Music ebbs and flows around us, classical tunes played by street musicians drifting through the window we have opened to let in the breeze on this warm spring day.

 

Of course, Nae Il being Nae Il, she had been miffed to discover that, in making our reservation, I had asked the concierge for a room with two single beds instead of one for two people. Fortunately, however, I had managed to stave off another one of her whining tantrums by pointing out that sleeping in the same room was already a step further than we have ever gone.

 

We have plans to meet with Jung Si Won for coffee later this afternoon, but have about an hour to spare. So, immediately after connecting to the Wi-Fi, I have turned on my phone’s Internet browser to see if there have been any messages or updates.

 

Hence my discovery of this review.

 

As far as reviews go, this is not a very prestigious one. It’s just a blog run by a fellow student in the Mozarteum: one whom neither of us knows personally, but who has made a bit of a reputation for herself by attending and reviewing as many performances on campus as possible. But for what it’s worth, it is still the first real word either of us have gotten about Nae Il’s recital. And although I know she can see the page well enough on her own, I can’t help reading some excerpts out loud anyway:

 

From her choice of pieces and the way she plays them, it is clear that Seol Nae Il is a Romantic at heart. Every single one of her selections is thick with emotion, and her momentum never flags, despite the high level of difficulty in each piece….

 

Nae Il’s first piece, Schubert’s Fantasie in F-Minor, fully encapsulates the sensual – or perhaps sexual – tension that exits between the two pianists. At some points, her rendition sounds like a long, lingering sigh; at others, a passionate embrace. Yet, despite her immersion into the piece, I wonder if there is something else going on in her performance. “Unrequited love” is what comes to mind – as though there is someone Nae Il would rather play with than her actual partner.

 

I’m unable to hold back a snicker at this point. “Ya, Seollebal,” I say chidingly, “I know that’s what you were feeling, but did you have to make it that obvious?”

 

She places her hands firmly on my shoulders and gives them a massage-like squeeze. “But I missed you, Orabang!” she whines before suddenly turning her head to kiss me on the cheek, making me scoot away from her in surprise.

 

“Ya! Get back over here!” Nae Il calls out, laughing, as she pulls me back. “I wasn’t done reading!”

 

“Ara, ara.” I settle back down, sitting cross-legged on the bed, while Nae Il returns to her spot behind me. Once she is comfortable, I resume reading:

 

In her performance of the Bach-Busoni Chaconne in D-Minor, Nae Il shows herself capable of restraint, but only just. She excels at the virtuosic demands of the piece, but there is a palpable tension throughout, as though she is a free spirit that is being forced into a box. Indeed, in the moments when she is allowed to stretch out – in the longer scales, arpeggios and runs – there is a feeling of escape that is just barely held under control. Thus, while it was pleasant to listen to, I can see that this style of music is not her strong suit.

 

“That sounds like you, all right,” I say with a nod. “Seol-le-bal – the girl who just couldn’t keep still.” When she gives me a pout in response, I add, “Gwenchana. Some critique is good; it gives you a sense of what you need to improve upon.”

 

I hear her let out an impatient huff, but she doesn’t give me any further protest.

 

Fortunately, though, the next section of the review is more what we are looking for:

 

This final number, Liszt’s Rhapsodie Espagnole, is where Nae Il truly shines. Although all the changes and additions she makes to the standardized interpretation means that this performance is not for the purists out there, I think that there is nothing more Liszt-like than what I have heard tonight. When playing this piece, Nae Il is fully in her element: able to express herself however she wants. This makes her music enjoyable to listen to, even if it breaks all the rules.

 

But above all else, in Nae Il’s hands, the Rhapsodie Espagnole is a declaration of love. A love for music and for the piano. (And, yes, for a man as well, if the passionate embrace I saw at the end of the concert has anything to say on the matter.)

 

The two of us have immediate but opposite reactions to that last statement.

 

Nae Il bursts out laughing, collapsing forward and seizing onto my shoulders for balance before finally letting go as she falls over sideways onto my bed. As for me, I instinctively toss my phone down onto the bed before, growling out a curse in frustration, I bury my burning face in my hands.

 

I had thought the “Uri Nae Il” incident had been bad. How on earth am I supposed to live this one down?

 

~~~~~

 

Vienna has no shortage of cafés: traditional ones with deep red upholstery warm wooden furniture, modern hipster ones that rival Korea’s coffeeshops for creativity and innovation, and everything in between.

 

It is in deference to Nae Il’s sweet tooth, then, that Jung Si Won had chosen to invite us to the Café Demel. A centuries-old establishment just a short walking distance from the Astoria, the coffee here, according to Si Won, is pretty pedestrian: not bad, but not particularly impressive either. Instead, what keeps the Demel bustling with long lines of locals and tourists alike is its vast array of cakes, pastries, and other sweets: the shop had once been the main purveyor of desserts to the Hapsburgs, Austria’s old imperial family, and word is that they have kept up their high quality to the present day.

 

Stepping into the Demel now, there is something that feels vaguely familiar about it: its tiled floors, the warm reddish-brown of the wooden furniture, the glass bakery case filled almost to bursting with a wide assortment of cakes and pastries. Somehow, I must have come here in the past with Eomma and Abeoji. After all, back then, I had enjoyed sweets just as much as any other child, even though my tastes have definitely mellowed and darkened over time.

 

But more so than my past, it is my present that captivates me, as I watch Nae Il stare, slack-jawed and wide-eyed, at the glass bakery case. For me, the sight never gets old, but this time, I am forced to give her a tap on the shoulder and remind her to make her choice quickly so we do not hold up the line.

 

Once we have been seated in one of the café’s ground floor dining rooms, we place our order with a prim-looking waitress who, hearkening back to its past as a gathering place for Vienna’s aristocrats, addresses us in a clipped and formal tone. Wanting to keep things simple, Si Won and I both opt for a serving each of the Einspänner – espresso served in a tall glass with whipped cream – and the Sachertorte; Nae Il, however, is more open to experimentation and chooses a hot chocolate and a slice of cheesecake topped with strawberries.

 

“I would have thought,” Si Won notes when our food has arrived, “that you would just go for chocolate-everything, Nae Il-ah.”

 

“I did think of that,” she answers, “but the strawberries looked too good to resist!” She gives me a pointed look, then adds, “Just so perfectly red and juicy and oh-so-yummy –”

 

Immediately, I burst into a coughing fit, the bite of cake I had just swallowed catching in my throat. Right away, Si Won reaches over to slap me on the back; then, when it has passed, she hands me the glass of water that had come with my coffee.

 

“Gwenchana?” she asks as I take a grateful sip.

 

I answer with a nod, then set the glass firmly down on the table before shooting Nae Il a warning glance. At least she is gracious enough to look just slightly sheepish at what she had just done.

 

Si Won’s gaze follows mine, and her eyes light up in realization that what had just happened was not mere coincidence.

 

“All right, Seol Nae Il,” she begins in her firm concertmistress’s voice. “Spill: what was that all about?”

 

In response, Nae Il launches into a full account of her concert last night, including an explanation of my reactions: first to the red dress she wore and then to her performance itself. However, any hope that I might have had that Jung Si Won would take my side on the issue soon disappears as, after hearing the whole story, she turns towards me in amusement. I catch a twinkle in her eye as she looks over me, as though seeing me for the very first time.

 

“Ya, Cha Yoo Jin! Who would have thought you’d do something like that?”

 

“I know, right?” Nae Il butts in. “But that’s because my Orabang’s actually a big teddy bear on the inside; he just doesn’t like showing that to other people.”

 

“Well, then, don’t start now,” I retort, giving her a light kick under the table.

 

But Nae Il is not deterred in the least. Instead, pointedly ignoring my signals for her to stop, she plunges ahead.

 

“So it’s weird, Eonnie, that Orabang made such a big fuss about the hotel room earlier today. I mean,” she adds, gesticulating in the air with her hands, “we’ve already been living together for a year, and you know that most hotel rooms around here just have the single double bed, but then he just had to insist otherwise and –”

 

“What’s wrong with that?!” I butt in, “Some people just want to save it for the wedding night, you know!”

 

Immediately, the girls gape at me in surprise. Too late, I realize what I have just said.

 

“Ya! It’s not funny!” I sputter, cheeks burning red, as, finally unable to hold it back any longer, both girls burst out laughing.

 

“Omo, Orabang,” Nae Il gasps, “I – I can’t – I can’t believe you just – who’s mind is in the gutter now?”

 

“Did – did Sigmund Freud come to this café a lot or something?” Si Won asks in as innocent a tone she could manage through her giggles. “He must be haunting this place,” she adds, raising her eyebrow at me. “Because that’s not one, but two slips from you in the past five minutes!”

 

“Shut up!”

 

That finally gets the girls to stop their teasing.

 

“Look, whatever just happened here, you two had better keep it to yourselves.” I point a warning finger at each of them in turn. “If I find out that anybody else at Haneum knows about this – especially either Yoo Il Rak or Lee Yoon Hoo – I’ll know who to go after. Arasseo?”

 

They both nod to that, even as they share a conspiratorial wink that leaves me less than convinced that they will stick to their promise. But I am at least confident enough that I have made my point for now, so our conversation moves on to other matters.

 

“Will Il Rak be coming to your recital?” I ask Si Won; her final recital – the one that would qualify her for graduation, and also bring her one-year exchange here in Vienna to an end – is coming up in May.

 

“I hope so,” she answers with a shrug. “Normally, I’d say he would, but you know how he is. Ever since graduating from Haneum this past winter, he’s been obsessed with work.”

 

Nae Il and I both nod in understanding. With the conversion from a student orchestra to a youth orchestra more generally, a number of Haneum’s students have stayed on with the Rising Star Orchestra even as their studies have come to an end. Yoo Il Rak is one of them, having agreed to sign on as the concertmaster full-time.

 

“What about you, Eonnie?” Nae Il asks. “Once you’re done, will you stay here, or…?”

 

“I plan to go back home, at least for a bit. It only makes sense, after all, if Il Rak wants to stay in Seoul. I’m sure there’ll be an orchestra somewhere who will take me – if not, Rising Star is an option, too.”

 

Nae Il furrows her brow in confusion as she props her elbows onto the table, then rests her chin in her hands. “But don’t you want to be a soloist, Eonnie? That’s what most people who study abroad are looking for.”

 

“True,” I answer. “But I know from experience that Jung Si Won is different.” I glance questioningly over at her. “Isn’t that right?”

 

She nods at both of us. “Maybe it’s because I’ve been concertmistress for so long, but I actually like being in an orchestra.” Looking back and forth at us, she sneers in disgust. “I don’t get why so many people back home see ensemble work as just a stepping stone towards a solo career – as if the world doesn’t need orchestras, only soloists! So if most people with talent would turn up their noses at it, well, then, let those like Il Rak and I who actually want the ensemble work take those jobs instead!”

 

“You will be there for the reunion concert this summer though,” I ask. “Professor Stresemann wants as many of us original Rising Star members to be there as possible.”

 

Si Won smiles in response. “Of course I’ll be there; I’ve already started discussing with Il Rak and Yoon Hoo about what piece we should perform.”

 

Nae Il leans forward in her seat in interest. “Will it be a concerto, Eonnie?”

 

“Ne.”

 

That makes her clap her hands together in excitement. “Orabang, isn’t that awesome?” she asks, grabbing me by the arm and pulling me closer. “Eonnie and Rak-kun get to perform together, and you and I get to perform together, and…and…it’s like a dream come true!”

 

Gently, I pry her off of me, and we resume our discussion until, a short while later, we have finished our drinks and snacks. All three of us are reluctant to part ways just yet, so instead of leaving the café right away, we head towards the back where a large window allows visitors to look inside the kitchen where the bakers work. Then, it is off to the Demel’s confectionery, where there is a wide assortment of specialty candies and chocolates available for purchase.

 

Of course, Nae Il, being who she is, starts hankering right away for me to buy some for her.

 

“I know your chocolate stash isn’t out yet, Seollebal, so if you want any, get it yourself.” I answer gruffly.

 

Grabbing me by the elbow and yanking me closer, Nae Il peers up at me with a pout. “But Orabang….”

 

“Andwae. I’m not made of money, you know.”

 

“Sure you’re not,” she retorts, rolling her eyes. Then, she directs her gaze at Si Won, who has been watching our entire exchange in amusement. “Did you know, Eonnie, that Orabang is, like, super-rich?” she whispers. “Like, he’s some sort of chaebol heir or something –”

 

“All right, Seollebal – I’ll get you your damned chocolate,” I blurt out before she could go on like this any longer. Even though, as one of the former members of the A Orchestra and, thus, part of Haneum’s elite circle, I’m fairly certain that Jung Si Won already knows about my family background, that doesn’t mean I like it to be flaunted about.

 

Mercifully, though, Nae Il still has enough presence of mind to choose something small and relatively inexpensive. And as she skips off to the cash register, holding onto the money I have passed her from my wallet, I finally let out the smile that I have been holding back.

 

~~~~~

 

Our first night together in Vienna passes by without any major incident, save for one point when Nae Il, claiming that I snored, sat up and threw her pillow at me. Then, when morning breaks, as is usual for us, she is awake well before I am, already dressed and bouncing excitedly on her bed by the time I get up. Finally, after breakfast at a small neighbourhood café – Nae Il might be a morning person, but I usually need at least one strong coffee in order to properly function – the two of us set out for our planned sightseeing for today.

 

Music, of course, is the main force that drives us forward as we wander around the historic centre of Vienna. Over the years, many composers and musicians have called this place home, and the city has found ways to memorialize a good number of them: with grand structures like the Opera House and the Musikverein, and with monuments and small museums in the buildings where they have once lived. So we try to hit as many of those places as possible: slipping into the Opera House just in time to catch a guided tour; tracking down the two parks featuring monuments to Mozart and Johann Strauss the younger respectively.

 

There is one thing, however, that we do not do. Experience from Salzburg has taught me that Nae Il has little patience for house museums that are notable solely for their location, many already stripped nearly bare of their former residents’ traces: sterile places filled with display cases, any instruments they may have played neatly hidden away behind glass or ropes.

 

Which is why rather than those museums, it’s the Haus der Musik that has caught our eye, so after making a quick stop for lunch at a restaurant close by, we decide to spend the afternoon there. For those of us who are already deeply immersed in classical music, a place like this might feel childish or kitschy, but its interactive exhibits mean that Nae Il, at least, will never be bored. And if Nae Il’s happy, then I’m happy, even if just from watching her.

 

The fun actually begins quite early on in our exploration of the museum. After getting our tickets in the large open foyer, we make our way to the stairs that lead to the first of several floors’ worth of exhibits.

 

The sound reaches us first: a light jangling sound, similar to that of an electric keyboard, that makes Nae Il stop in her tracks.

 

“Orabang, is that what I think it is?”

 

She doesn’t wait for a response, though, before grabbing me by the hand and pulling me along towards the source of the sound: a flight of stairs painted black and white like piano keys. A group of primary school-aged children, their parents looking on proudly, are running up and down the stairs; each step produces a note that also lights up on the large music staff shown along the wall.

 

Nae Il would have rushed forward to try it right away, but I manage to hold her back, telling her to wait until the others have finished. By the time the family is done, nodding to us as they pass by, she is starting to get impatient, shifting her weight from one foot to the other. Then, once the coast is clear, she is off like a shot, running straight up the stairs, then back down again.

 

“What sort of scale is that?” I call out as she comes back to me.

 

She shoots me a look. “Do we have to, Orabang? It’s not like I don’t know already.”

 

“Answer the question,” I prompt her, using the same professorial tone of voice that I adopt when I am conducting a rehearsal.

 

“Oh, all right,” she concedes with a sigh. “That was a chromatic scale.”

 

I give her an approving nod, then ask her to attempt a major scale. Once again, Nae Il gives me a skeptical glance, but then she does as she’s told. Although the scale itself is familiar to her, playing it on foot is not; and the added physical challenge of skipping from one step to the next means that by the time she rejoins me on the bottom, any irritation she had felt at my bossing her around has been replaced with cheery playfulness.

 

“And now, Orabang,” she says, suddenly stepping behind me and pushing me towards the stairs, “it’s your turn.” Realizing that there aren’t many options left, as the stairs only provide enough notes for an octave, she barks, “Play me a minor scale. Bbali.”

 

I give her a teasing smile in response. “Harmonic or melodic?”

 

“Both.”

 

Which, of course, entails my running up and down the stairs twice, using slightly different keys each time.

 

By the time I’m done, Nae Il is raring to try the stairs one last time, even though I personally am ready to move on. She squeezes past me onto the stairs, managing to play the first three notes of a major scale – Do, Re, and Mi – before suddenly coming to a stop. Slowly, she turns back around to face me at the bottom of the stairs.

 

“What is it, Nae Il-ah?”

 

“Orabang…” she begins, gesturing with her chin at the bottom of the stairs, “how am I supposed to jump all the way back down to Do from here? That’s a whole four steps down!”

 

I have a suspicion where this is going, but I can’t help asking anyway: “Just what did you have in mind, Seollebal?”

 

She places her hands sheepishly behind her back and shifts her weight from one foot to the other, the note she is standing on repeating and echoing itself as she does so. “Well, since these stairs can fit one whole scale in there….”

 

I raise an eyebrow at her. “You were planning to play ‘Do Re Mi’? From The Sound of Music?”

 

Nae Il nods, a glum pout on her face. But then, just as suddenly, her mood brightens as, shrugging off the setback, she turns and runs up the rest of the staircase, leaving me dashing behind her to keep up, unable to hold back a laugh at her antics.

 

The first floor of exhibitions we come to is about the history of the Vienna Philharmonic, including a room where clips of past New Year’s Concerts are played on a loop. Nae Il and I only give the video a cursory glance, though; after having seen and listened to the real thing, a video is a poor substitute. Instead, the main thing that catches our interest here on this floor is a display case showing batons owned by a number of the orchestra’s principal conductors over the years: legends like Herbert van Karajan – who, incidentally, is also our sunbae by many years at the Mozarteum – and Karl Böhm.

 

Noting my interest in the display, Nae Il sidles up beside me and gives me a nudge on the side with her shoulder.

 

“Mwo?”

 

“You know, Orabang, when word first got out at Haneum that you were coming to study here in Austria, Ma Su Min said that you’d end up conducting the Vienna Philharmonic yourself someday.”

 

I answer her with a scoffing laugh. “Trust Ma Su Min to say something like that! It’s not as easy as he thinks, you know.”

 

The next floor’s exhibition space is one we pass by quickly: an exploration of the science of sound and acoustics. Soon, then, we make our way up to the one above that, which features several different interconnected rooms, each one devoted to a composer who had once lived in Vienna: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Strauss, Mahler….The only ones that don’t interest me are those about the composers of the Second Viennese School from the 1930s – Schönberg, Webern and Berg – whose music, known for its atonality and its stepping out of the confines of the scale, have always sounded unpleasant and disorganized to my ears. Call me a purist, but I do prefer the older things best.

 

These exhibits feature various games and activities, booths in which one could listen to their music, and a number of the composers’ belongings, including manuscripts of compositions and even some instruments – which, much to Nae Il’s disappointment, are also cordoned off. Looking across the barrier at Beethoven’s fortepiano, I hear her muttering something under her breath about “pianos that can’t be played”, and find myself having to bite back a laugh even as I try to explain that if visitors are allowed to touch the instruments, they wouldn’t last nearly as long as they have.

 

“It’s either bar them off or nothing, Seol Nae Il – take your pick.”

 

She answers me with a shrug and one last disdainful sideways glance back at the piano before stepping away to look at another one of the displays. This one makes her straighten up to her full height, her mouth opening slightly in surprise.

 

“Orabang,” she calls out to me, beckoning me closer with one hand. Once I have come up behind her, she points at the plaque in front of her. “It says here that Beethoven was born in Germany.”

 

“Geu rae,” I answer with a nod. “He was. In Bonn.”

 

“But I thought he was Austrian.”

 

“And you’re not alone.” Bending down so that my head hovers just above her shoulder, I whisper in her ear. “One of the best tricks that we Austrians have ever pulled, Nae Il-ah, is convincing the world that Beethoven is Austrian and Hitler is German.”

 

Without waiting for a response, I pull back and start walking away, biting back a laugh once I know she cannot see my face. This joke is an old one, one of the many that Professor Stresemann has told me in his attempts to poke fun at my being Austrian and him German. But despite that, it never ceases to amuse me, especially once the punchline sinks in.

 

Sure enough, seconds later, it happens:

 

“Wait – you mean Hitler’s not German?!”

 

I hear Nae Il running up behind me, jumping up to give me a sharp smack in retaliation between the shoulder-blades that sends me stumbling forward a few steps. Then, bursting into laughter, she ducks past me and pulls on ahead to the next area – Schubert’s.

 

Sometime later, after we have explored all of the composers’ exhibits to our hearts’ content, we come to a corridor that leads to a door through which, once again, music comes pouring out. I recognize it as Strauss’s Blue Danube Waltz, but this is unlike any other version of the waltz I have ever heard. Its tempo is, in a word, erratic – although messy might be an even better way of describing it.

 

Perking up in curiosity, Nae Il makes a beeline for the doorway, beckoning for me to follow after her. I approach a bit more reluctantly, not sure what I would find. But it’s because of my delay that she gets there first, coming to a halt just inside the doorframe before pressing a hand to her mouth to suppress a laugh.

 

“Orabang,” she whispers, grabbing my hand and pulling me, stumbling, beside her to peer inside. “Look!”

 

I follow her finger and there, I see the source for the strange music: a video screen showing a projection of the Vienna Philharmonic, but responding in real time to a live conductor. There is another visitor already there on the stand: a young man around my age, standing in front of the screen, waving a baton haphazardly through the air. Off to the side, a girl – his sister or girlfriend – is looking on, giggling in amusement as she films his antics with her phone.

 

I can tell that Nae Il finds it funny, but I don’t. Although I know how irrational it is for me to react this way, I find myself tensing up in annoyance instead.

 

It’s wrong – completely and utterly wrong. But more than the mistakes, it’s the guy’s attitude that irks me. Clearly, he and his partner derive some sort of humour from this reckless display: alternating between ridiculously fast and ploddingly slow, stringing the orchestra along like some sort of plaything.

 

Eyes narrowing, I take an instinctual step forward into the room, but Nae Il, realizing to her credit exactly what I’m thinking, lunges out and grabs my hand, holding me back.

 

“Wait, Orabang,” she whispers. “They’re not finished yet.”

 

I shoot her a warning look before flinging myself free. “But he’s doing it all wrong,” I hiss back, careful to keep my voice down.

 

“I know – but not everyone takes music as seriously as you do. I thought you’d know that already.”

 

True. But this is different from the S Orchestra. This is not someone letting himself loose because he has become absorbed in the music. This is some jacked up smart alec who thinks conducting an orchestra is just standing there gesticulating madly with a baton while making funny faces.

 

“Just wait until they’re finished, Orabang,” Nae Il whispers, reaching up with one hand to pat me reassuringly on the shoulder. Then, to my surprise, her grip tightens as she growls, “Then go out there and show them how it’s really done.”

 

Finally, I feel myself start to relax, and a smile tugs at my lips. “Are those fighting words, Seol Nae Il?”

 

“Of course,” she answers with a nod. “You know I’ll always fight for you.”

 

As it turns out, I don’t have long to wait. It appears that whatever computer program is running this simulation has some sense of justice, because suddenly, the orchestra itself stops playing and, on the screen, the concertmaster stands up to scold the reckless conductor. He does so in a joking tone, of course, but still, I cannot help feeling a rush of vindication when, laughing, the girl gets up onto the stand and gives her partner a light smack on the arm.

 

Now, finally, Nae Il nudges me ahead. I cross the room in several brisk steps, approaching the pair just as they are coming down from the stand. I hold out one hand to the young man.

 

“May I?”

 

His eyes widen in surprise at my curt tone of voice, but then wordlessly, he hands me the baton: a simple clear plastic rod with a small red light inside. Once I have it, I take a step back to a clear spot in the room. Then, aiming the baton down at the floor so I won’t hit anyone by mistake, I slash it several times through the air.

 

Whether a violin bow or a conductor’s baton, I have found this to be a good way to get a feel of its weight in my hand. It also, however, carries the added bonus of signalling to everyone around that I mean business; and I can’t deny that intimidation is what I am aiming for with this display, at least in part.

 

As I take the place the couple had just vacated, I hear Nae Il’s voice in the background, quietly encouraging them to stay for a few minutes longer. Glancing back over my shoulder, I find a fond smile coming to my face when I even see her dashing quickly out of the room, returning seconds later with an entire family in tow – parents, children, even grandparents.

 

I suppose in this the two of us are alike: whenever one of us is performing, the other wants to generate an audience.

 

Leaving Nae Il to her antics – she is ushering everyone to the back of the room where there are several seats available, putting them at ease with the friendly small talk that she excels at – I turn back to face the front, my eyes scanning over the space to get my bearings.

 

There is the screen in front of me, but where is the stand?

 

It takes me a moment, but I eventually find it: a stand with a computer screen where the digitized scores are stored. I bite back a curse, though, when I discover that it has been placed on my right instead of in front, making it nearly impossible to look at both the score and the orchestra at the same time.

 

What should I do now? I can’t afford to mess this up!

 

Before I could decide, Nae Il comes up beside me, eyes skimming over the selection of pieces displayed on the stand. Then, without even asking me for my input, she picks one of them: Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik.

 

“Ya, Seollebal,” I hiss at her as she makes to duck past me off the stand.

 

She gives me a coy wink in response, then darts to a spot off to the side in front of me, whipping out her phone. Fortunately, the simulation starts with a brief introduction of the orchestra as well as instructions on how to use the baton, which buys both of us enough time to get ready.

 

“What are you doing?” I ask, turning to face the screen and getting into position.

 

“Filming,” she answers, peering up at me over the phone.  

 

“Mwo?”

 

“You’re getting to conduct the Vienna Philharmonic, even if it’s just a game.” She gives me a grin, then glances back down at her screen, ready to start recording at a moment’s notice. “Wait ‘til Ma Su Min sees this…!”

 

I would have said something in rebuttal, but there’s no more time as the introduction comes to an end and I am, at last, left facing the virtual orchestra on my own.

 

As I cue for the music to start, keeping time with the baton in my right hand, I have to marvel at Nae Il’s foresight. She has, after all, chosen a piece that I am already familiar with, even if I have never actually conducted it before. Thus, as though by instinct, I find myself launching into all the right cues: pulling back my shoulders and puffing out my chest to broaden my movements for greater volume, putting my left index finger to my lips and hunching my shoulders to shrink down my movements for less; adding a flick of the wrist to prompt the violins to play staccato, sweeping with my left hand in a smooth fluid motion for legato; eyes darting and head turning this way and that to call out to each section and bring them into the forefront.

 

In the back of my mind, a memory, almost forgotten, comes to the surface. A moment from one of my first lessons at Haneum with Professor Stresemann: he had made me conduct along with the studio recording of a piece before, suddenly, sweeping my score off the stand partway through.

 

Startled, I had fumbled and crouched down to retrieve it then, only to look up and discover the professor looming disapprovingly over me. “When you have to choose between the score and the music, Cha Yoo Jin, choose the music!” he had barked, giving me a sharp rap on the head with his knuckles for good measure. Then, offering his hand to help me up, he had added more kindly, “Trust your instincts; if you already know the piece in your heart, you won’t need the score. Focus on guiding the orchestra to create the sound that is inside you instead.”

 

And that’s exactly what I am doing now. Unable to see the score without breaking eye contact from the musicians – digital avatars though they might be – I choose the music instead. Trusting myself to know how to move along with the piece ringing inside my head, trusting the orchestra to be skilled enough to follow my lead.

 

Finally, the piece comes to an end, and I am greeted with the sound of applause: not only in front of me from the orchestra, but behind me from our impromptu audience as well. Again, almost by instinct, I swivel in my spot and thank them with a bow, at which point Nae Il, bouncing up and down in excitement, rushes up onto the stand to lead me back down.

 

“Orabang, that was amazing!” she gushes out, her hands firmly latching onto the crook of my arm.

 

I give her a warm smile in response, placing my free hand on top of hers. “Komawo.”

 

Just then, I feel someone tugging at my jacket. Glancing down, I see a little boy standing beside me. Vaguely, I recognize him from the family that Nae Il had pulled in from outside as I was setting up for the game.

 

“Mister,” he says, addressing me in English – clearly a tourist then – “are you – are you a real conductor?”

 

Nae Il laughs, bending down to look the child in the eye. “Yes, he is. How did you know?”

 

“Because both his hands were moving.” He shakes his head, then, making a face. “No, not just his hands – all of him was moving!” he cries out, stretching his arms wide for emphasis.

 

I find myself biting back a laugh in amusement. Of course. The simulation, with its clear computerized baton, could only read the actions of whichever hand was holding it. To the program, anything else I did would not have made any difference to the results. But I am a conductor; I simply cannot not do the entire package, payoff or not. To just move my right hand would have felt as unnatural and ridiculous as, say, trying to walk with my hands or play the piano with my feet. In other words: simply impossible.

 

And clearly, this kid knows that.

 

“Can you teach me, Mister?”

 

“What?” Not sure what I have just heard, I crouch down in front of the child. “Sorry, could you say that again, please?”

 

He points to the stand behind me. “I want to try, too. Can you teach me? Please?”

 

There is something about the eagerness in the child’s voice, the bright smile on his face, that moves me to agree. Perhaps, somewhere in there, I see a smaller version of myself: reaching back through time, this must have been how I looked first at Abeoji and then, later, at Maestro Viera.

 

And that’s how I find myself, moments later, back on the conductor’s stand, this time with my hand carefully folded around that little boy’s as I guide him through his own rendition of the piece. He smiles brightly as the orchestra follows his every move: eager to learn, eager to please, filled to the brim with a love for music that heaven forbid should ever be snuffed out.

 

~~~~~

 

“When we get home, we should frame this,” Nae Il says, holding up the souvenir certificate that we have redeemed from the Haus der Musik’s gift shop for successfully completing the conducting simulation.

 

I let out a short, scoffing laugh. “Seriously, Seollebal?” I gesture across the table at the flimsy sheet of paper. “This old thing? It’s not actually going to get us anywhere, you know.”

 

The two of us, having finally finished our tour of the museum and all its exhibits, are sitting at a small table in the entrance foyer, each nursing a paper cup of coffee I had gotten from the vending machine.

 

“Of course I know that,” she answers brightly. “But even though it was just a game, it’s still something to be proud of.”

 

“Put it in your room, then, if it matters so much to you. Because honestly, I don’t really care,” I retort, leaning back in my chair as I finish downing my drink. “So long as I didn’t fail, I don’t need something to mark my success.”

 

“Eh, you’re no fun!” Nae Il quips back, turning to put the certificate into her bag. Then, after taking a sip of her coffee, she looks towards the grand piano on the other side of the room.

 

My gaze follows hers. “You want to play?”

 

“Ne,” she answers with a nod. “I didn’t get the chance earlier, after all.”

 

“Well, then, go ahead,” I answer, nodding towards the front desk. “All you have to do is ask.”

 

After thinking it over for a moment longer, she gets up from her seat. Then, crossing over to my side of the table, she holds out a hand to me, prompting me to stand up and take it.

 

Together, we make our way to the reception desk, where I ask if we may be allowed to play the piano.

 

“Are you two any good?” the clerk asks me back, her voice clipped and curt. It’s the way things are here in Austria: no-one is interested in hearing classical music done poorly, and from this woman’s tone, she’s clearly heard too much of that for one day already.

 

So I explain who we are and where we are from: students from the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Nae Il having just had her recital debut two days ago. And that’s enough to persuade the clerk, who nods her assent before adding one last instruction: “No more than five minutes each.”

 

That, of course, limits our options in terms of what pieces we play. Fortunately, from her time spent working in Eomma’s coffee shop as well as a kindergarten in Seoul, Nae Il has plenty of short, catchy tunes in her arsenal, and it’s one of those that she plays now: Golliwog’s Cake Walk by Debussy.

 

This piece matches her personality almost exactly: joyful and rollicking, with a good sense of humour, a quick dance-like rhythm and a spring in its step. Almost jazz-like in texture, it is embellished throughout with ornaments and trills, the notes sometimes bouncing, sometimes gliding and smearing into each other: dissonant, but not displeasingly so. As Nae Il plays, she moves in time with the beat: tilting her head from side to side, bending her fingers to almost pluck out the staccato notes before finally, after a long rolling scale in the bass, she plays the final chord, bouncing up off her seat as she does so.

 

And now, it’s my turn, as Nae Il and I switch places: I on the piano’s bench and her standing behind.

 

It has been a while since I have played a shorter piece, so I fall back on one that, due to its moderate level of difficulty, I have memorized quite some time back: Schubert’s Impromptu in E-flat Major. Like the piece Nae Il had chosen, this one is built on contrast between two different themes. The first features a soft and quiet melody: rapid triplets in the treble that feel almost improvised in the way they just pour and flow out, weaves and floats through the air like a butterfly. The second theme, switching abruptly to a dark minor key, is tense and raw: the treble straining against the bass as they pull apart then drift back together, back and forth, over and over. This piece then features a reprise of the first theme, but in its ending coda, switches firmly back to the second, so that it ends not on the bright major key, but with a series of explosive chords in the tempestuous minor.

 

As we play, we are both aware that passersby are stopping in their tracks to watch and listen, and they meet our performances with polite but still heartfelt applause. Yet, once again, our focus is not on them but on ourselves and each other. What matters isn’t what the audience thinks, but what we do.

 

~~~~~

 

“Where are we going, Orabang?” Nae Il asks as, her hand in mine, I lead her along the bustling downtown street away from the café where we had just had breakfast. “Don’t we have to check out from the hotel soon?”

 

“We’ve got until noon – I checked,” I reply without missing a beat as I guide her along. “Trust me; we’ll be done well before then.”

 

“All right – but where are we going?”

 

“It’s a surprise; you’ll see when we get there.”

 

After walking like this for several minutes, I can see from the look on Nae Il’s face that she is beginning to recognize our surroundings. Eyes widening, she turns her head this way and that, glancing around us.

 

“Isn’t this where the Musikverein is? You know, where we went to the New Year’s Concert?”

 

I answer with a nod. “Geu rae, Nae Il-ah. But that’s not where we’re going.”

 

Not exactly, anyway.

 

The destination I have in mind is, in fact, inside the Musikverein, but it’s not the main concert hall. Ever since I found out about this place and discovered that it would be open this Monday morning, I had planned on bringing Nae Il here. I had had to pull some strings to make it happen – calling the staff in advance, explaining exactly what it was I wanted to do there – but all the logistics had panned out, and it was now time to actually make it happen.

 

So, as we turn the familiar corner at the Hotel Imperial and make our way towards the Musikverein looming in the distance, instead of leading Nae Il to the open plaza at the front of the building, I guide her to take a left turn onto the side street along its northern façade.

 

As we approach a doorway in the side of the building, Nae Il glances up and notices the metallic sign on the wall above it, written in elaborate Gothic script. Immediately, she stops in her tracks, pulling me to a halt beside her.

 

“Bösendorfer?” she asks, her voice tinged with awestruck wonder. “Is this where we’re going?”

 

“Exactly,” I answer, smiling fondly at her as her entire face lights up in excitement. “This is Bösendorfer’s showroom here in Vienna, built right into the Musikverein itself. When it comes to a heart of classical music in this city, Nae Il-ah, this is it.”

 

Still gaping in surprise, Nae Il readily follows my lead through the door into a brightly lit showroom, its plain white walls receding into the background so that the pianos scattered at regular intervals throughout the space – grands and uprights in black or dark brown – draw all the attention.

 

As we make our way inside, we are met by one of the staff, a dark-haired young woman in a crisp black suit.

 

“Grüss Gott,” I call out to her, dipping my head in a slight bow as well.

 

She returns the greeting, then asks, “Did you have an appointment?”

 

“Ja. I was the one who called some time ago about a showing.”

 

“May I have your name, bitte?”

 

I give it to her, and, after checking her records, she gives both of us a friendly smile. “So it’s you two – the ones from the Mozarteum.” Stepping further into the showroom, she gestures towards the pianos on display with a sweep of her hand. “Whichever one you want, Fraulein,” she says to Nae Il.

 

Nae Il, of course, turns to stare at me, wide-eyed. “Orabang,” she whispers, using Korean so the woman can’t make out what she’s saying, “we’re not seriously getting one, are we?”

 

I answer with a chuckle. “Unfortunately not.” Bösendorfers are, after all, quite expensive – being handmade in Austria, they have to be. “Don’t worry, though; I’ve cleared it up already with the store, and if nothing else, they have recordings and other smaller items that we can buy instead if it makes you feel better. For now, though, just pick one.”

 

Breathing a deep sigh of relief, Nae Il now looks around the room in earnest. It takes her a while to make her choice, but she soon settles on a simple-looking black one: in terms of appearance, it is quite basic, but both she and I know that its sound will impress. And that’s what we want.

 

As Nae Il moves to sit at the bench, I quickly join her, setting myself down on the left side. Pausing in surprise, she shoots me a sideways glance.

 

“All right, Orabang – what is it? Just what on earth do you have planned?”

 

Rather than answer her directly, I gesture towards the canvas tote that she has placed on the ground beside her. “Check your bag.”

 

Furrowing her brow in confusion, Nae Il does as she’s told, reaching down to retrieve her bag and opening it to peer inside. Immediately, a look of surprise crosses her features, and I know she has found what I, when she was in the bathroom this morning back at the hotel, had snuck inside.

 

“Or- Orabang…” she gasps, pulling out our copy of the score for Schubert’s Fantasie in F-Minor, “when did – how – wait, what?”

 

“I brought it with me in the bottom of my suitcase, then slipped it into your bag when you weren’t looking. I thought you would like to have a chance to play it here.”

 

Clearly Nae Il likes the idea; I can tell because she has been struck completely speechless for once.

 

“You were the one who said you wanted to play this piece together with me, Nae Il-ah,” I continue. “Remember? Back when your professor had first suggested you perform it with him at your recital?

 

“And, to be honest,” I add ruefully, thinking back to the rush of emotion I had felt during her concert, “I want to do so, too.”

 

“Jeongmal?”

 

“Jeongmal,” I reply firmly, adding a nod as well. “And while there’s not much I can do by way of a public performance, this –” I gesture at the piano we are sitting at and the room around us “– I hope, is the next best thing.”

 

She turns and wraps her arms around me in a hug, then. Rather than a giddy or excited one, this embrace is gentle and warm and just restrained enough that I actually allow her to finish instead of trying to push her off.

 

“Komawoyo,” she murmurs into my ear before pulling back of her own accord. Then, she opens the sheet music to the first page and turns to look at me.

 

“Shall we, Orabang?”

 

I answer with a nod and together, moving as one, we start to play. Our music – hers the treble and mine the bass – rings out in perfect harmony, filling the room and then overtaking us in a wave.

 

All is right with our world once more.

 

Author's Notes (In "Hidden Contents" Because of Spoilers)

 

Spoiler

Whoo! Tons of stuff in this fic here, I know. So let's break it all down in this behind-the-scenes feature, shall we?

 

Instead of dividing it into, say, discussions on the music, on locations, etc., I'm going to split the fic into two main parts: Nae Il's concert, and the trip to Vienna.

 

1. Nae Il's Concert

 

So, just going in chronological order, here are the different pics/references that I used:

 

The Red Dress

 

Burgundy tulle lace long prom dress, evening dress, Burgundy tulle lace long bridesmaid dress

 

The Solitär in the Mozarteum

 

Solitaer_360-1024x635.jpg

 

The Music

 

This, I want to go into a bit more detail about. Most of what I want to say is already in the fic itself, but there are some things I want to say about the specific recordings I used.

 

1. Schubert's Fantasie in F-Minor

 

Since this is a piece I've already featured in a previous fic ("The Sound of Christmas"), I don't want to just share the same audio file I did last time. So, instead, I've opted to share a video of a live performance - this one features the pianists Lim Dong Hyek (treble) and Kim Jung Won/Julius Kim (bass)

 

 

2. Busoni's Chaconne in D-Minor

 

Again, this is a piano transcription/arrangement of a piece that was originally composed by Bach for violin. In this case, the pianist is Tzvi Erez.

 

 

3. Liszt's Rhapsodie Espagnole

 

Okay, this is where the pianist really matters. There are, as mentioned in the fic itself, many recordings of this piece, but the one I chose was played by Stephen Hough - and I chose it because it's well, the most "Nae Il" interpretation I could find :wink: If you can't read music, it'll be hard to spot from this video, so I'll just say it outright: Hough deviates from the score a good deal in this recording, in the same way that I described Nae Il doig in the fic. Do I think this is literally what she played? Of course not. Nae Il is Nae Il, after all. She'll have her own way of doing it for which no recording exists :tongue: But I do think her performance, with its flourishes and tiny additions and changes, would have the same free-flowing quality as this one.

 

 

And now, moving on to the second half!

 

2. The Trip to Vienna

 

I make mentions of a lot of locations here, but in terms of pics, I'll just do the main ones.

 

Hotel Astoria

 

exterior.jpg

 

A quick FYI about European hotels: when they say a double bed...oftentimes, it's two single beds put together. You could tell when, say, you see what looks like a dividing line going down the middle of the mattress :tongue: Now, most of the publicity shots of the rooms in this hotel would show the "double" arrangement, but I did find a picture showing what it would look like if the bed was split back into two:

 

austria-trend-hotel-astoria.jpg

 

(Yeah...not exactly romantic, I know - blame Cha Yoo Jin for that :tongue:)

 

Café Demel 

 

The entrance area

 

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The seating/dining area

 

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The confectionery/gift shop

 

adsy-bernart-demel-2.jpg

 

The Haus der Musik

 

The Musical Stairs

 

STYLEAT30 Travel + Fashion Blog - Sound Museum - Haus der Musik - Vienna Travel Guide - Austria - 2

 

The Display of Batons from Conductors of the Vienna Philharmonic

 

famous-conductors-batons.jpg

 

Beethoven's Fortepiano

 

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The Virtual Conductor Simulation


By the way, if you go on YouTube, you can search up tons of videos of people's attempts to play the game. Mostly unsuccessfully, though - there are, of course, those who just haven't gotten the hang of conducting (it looks easier than it actually is!), but there are also those who, like the guy in the fic, are messing around and being silly just for the fun of it. And, well, Yoo Jin being Yoo Jin...need I say more? :wink: 

 

Haus-der-Musik-Dirigent_high.jpg?v=1261602828

 

The Piano in the Lobby

 

And, yes, you can actually play it if you ask for permission. I did see a comment on a review site that it's not a guaranteed yes, though - the staff still has the right to turn you down for whatever reason.

 

original_open-uri20131110-18517-1x73rlr?1384112012?ixlib=rails-0.3.0&auto=format%2Ccompress&crop=entropy&fit=crop&h=719&q=80&w=954

 

And, since we're already here, here are the two pieces I featured in this segment:

 

1. Debussy's Golliwog's Cake Walk

 

I decided to use a video performance instead of a recording here (although I was listening to a different one while writing), because it shows just how much fun this piece is to play. The pianist in question here is Cho Seong Jin.

 

FYI: Just getting this out there before I get in trouble for not including it. The term "Golliwog" is, to be honest, a racist one: it refers to a fictional character from Debussy's time that's a very exaggerated and stereotypical portrayal of Blacks. However, as a piece of music, I think this one is still worth playing and listening to if it could somehow be reclaimed to suggest another image (e.g. when I was listening to it as a child, I actually imagined a little boy trying to steal a cake from the kitchen counter). It still is, however, one of the most unfortunately-named pieces of classical music I know, but there's not a whole ton I can do about Debussy's choices there.

 

 

2. Schubert's Impromptu in E-Flat Major

 

Nothing much to say here, save that the pianist in this recording is Jenö Jandó. Oh, and also that I am in the middle of teaching myself to play this piece now, having fallen in love with it :wink:

 

(EDIT: Just for the record, when I write about this piece as being of "moderate difficulty" in the fic...that's from Cha Yoo Jin's perspective, which is probably quite different from levels of difficulty in laymen's terms :wink: Now that I'm learning how to play it myself...it's not super-virtuosic like some of the other Schubert pieces I've featured - like the Wanderer Fantasy from the fic "Angel of Music, Come Down from Above" or the Fantasie in F-Minor that I use in this fic - but it's not exactly easy either. But I will say this: I oftentimes still get things wrong and I can't play it nearly as fast as the recording, but there's definitely something so thrilling when things do go right and end up falling into place.)

 

 

And..one last location!

 

The Bösendorfer Klaviere

 

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Bo-sendorfer_Salon-1A.jpg

 

Bo-sendorfer_U-besalon-1D.jpg

 

 

And...that's it for this one. If you've made it this far - kamsahamnida!

 

Once again, if you want to access a master list of my fanfics as well as other Hallyu-related writings (blog posts, etc.), you can find that under the "About Me" tab on my profile page. Thanks - and enjoy reading!

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Just dropping by with the pics for today - this time, courtesy of a Moon Chae Won fan I follow on Pinterest, actually. They've shared a number of pictures that Photoshopped JW and MCW together - which look to be from when it was first announced that they were both cast in "Good Doctor" - and some of them turned out to be some really nice pieces of fanart :) 

 

To be honest, it looks like these pics come from several different sources (including some for JW's fans) - but, like I'd said at the beginning, I found out about these via Moon Chae Won's fans, so....

 

Spoiler

342ef8b4c4fa2c225fa5c706743120f7.jpg

 

f7cd7ce511241eaa1cc28974dee5c678.jpg

 

This one still has the original working title for "Good Doctor": "Green Mes" (i.e. "Green Scalpel", since "mes" is the Korean word for a scalpel)

 

0dda7472f0377579ad1fe991688d59f2.jpg

 

This one's really sweet and pretty

 

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Saving this one for last, because it's doubly Photoshopped - So we have not only JW and MCW put together into the same picture, but whoever made this had to Photoshop JW into historical hanbok first (since this definitely predates "My Sassy Girl" by a long shot, plus JW never wore the royal robes/headdress as Gyun Woo :wink:)

 

25a7d00261bb8f9364f351499d846a9a.jpg

 

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Hey I'm back! But this time I will be quick. I just want you to know that I always visit this forum but I just can't leave a reply or comment. I always see new photos and fanfic you share here. And as always your fanfic is always amazing. Great detail and story. That photos of moon chae won and Joo won also very good. It's fans dream to see them play again in new drama. Including me. Now I will share my pics!

 

Pics!

 

Always good every time 

 

Joo won's forest. So happy!

 

Joo won in action. He is indeed a good avatar.

 

Yeah... why can he so cute when he sneezing? Looks like a kid.

 

This is my expression when I know I can't meet or even see him myself.

 

Perfect side view. I love his nose. Sharp but small.

 

 

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1 hour ago, moonstrike said:

Hey I'm back! But this time I will be quick. I just want you to know that I always visit this forum but I just can't leave a reply or comment. I always see new photos and fanfic you share here. And as always your fanfic is always amazing. Great detail and story. That photos of moon chae won and Joo won also very good. It's fans dream to see them play again in new drama. Including me. Now I will share my pics!

 

That's why I still post the fics, even if it's quiet here. But after one goes up, I will slow down a bit - just to make sure that I don't, say, end up starting a new page before I've heard back from anyone.

 

1 hour ago, moonstrike said:

Joo won's forest. So happy!

 

Yeah, I saw a lot of pics about this on Instagram. I think it's awesome that JW's fans in Korea do things like this - planting trees, painting murals, etc. I imagine that that's the sort of thing JW likes, too: the sort of gift that gives back to the community rather than being directed towards him specifically. :) 

 

Okay, so with the fic post and everything, I've actually saved up a lot of pics in my Pinterest collection that I haven't shared here yet. I won't do them all at once, though :tongue: 

 

Spoiler

JW with each of the child actors in "Good Doctor"

 

 

Loving this shot from "Nae Il's Cantabile" :) This is the sort of vibe/tone I was aiming for in the Vienna-based scenes in my most recent fic, where Nae Il's looking at something (in this case, the view of Salzburg from the bridge), and Yoo Jin's looking too, but his mind's actually on her :wink: 

 

 

So many soldier oppas!

 

 

I've seen these pictures separately, but not together like this. But apparently, they're all from the same Japanese magazine issue promoting the Japanese release of "Nae Il's Cantabile", and..."Couple fashion" AND "Couple pose"?!

 

 

A couple of shots of JW dressed in white

 

 

 

 

 

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Just popping by with some pics for today.

 

Spoiler

A collage of a number of JW's crying scenes

 

 

I really like how this shot turned out

 

 

A behind the scenes shot from "Nae Il's Cantabile"

 

 

I like how the focus in this shot ends up on his hand

 

 

An epic and intense shot from "Gaksital"

 

 

I've mentioned before that I'm not a fan of the "Morning After" concept from the 2015 December Céci photo shoot - but this shot stands out to me anyway, because of his laugh :D 

 

 

Bad boy + Flower Boy = This!

 

 

 

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Nice! There are pics that I want to share here. So here it is!

 

Pics

 

I love the music and also the video montage. So good!

 

 

So cool

 

Today is joo won's 342 days in military. It means we just have to wait 298 days more! Welcoming the 200 days.

 

Beauty tae hee. But tae hee I mean here is hwang tae hee the third child in ojakgyo family. 

http://m.dcinside.com/view.php?id=joowon&no=318667&page=1

 

I love this picture. That handsome face and manly hand

 

Love this shots

 

 

 

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Since @moonstrike and I posted simultaneously last time - literally! - I'll start things up again with some pics. Depending on how things go, I may do a second run later, but for now...here are some more!

 

Spoiler

One more of those airplane fashion shots

 

 

A nice shot from "Ghost"

 

 

A cute moment from JW's 2017 Hong Kong Fanmeeting

 

 

This shot looks like it's candid - but it's so nice!

 

 

So...apparently, this is a thing?

 

 

And I know a number of fans like it when he brushes back his hair with his hand :wink: 

 

 

 

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So, this isn't the usual time that I post, but I'm doing it now just to let everyone know that I'm okay and, to the best of my knowledge so far, was not directly affected by the major incident that happened yesterday in my home city (Toronto, Canada).

 

For those who don't know (putting it in Spoilers because it is really scary)...

 

Spoiler

Yesterday here in the early afternoon, a man purposely drove a van up onto a busy sidewalk - not downtown, but close to a major subway station, so there were tons of people - and went along it for a considerable distance running a bunch of people over. As of right now, 10 people are dead and...I think 15 injured? I'm just doing my own math, since it was 9 killed 16 injured when I went to bed last night, and the death toll is 10 right now, so....

 

The police and government have said that there's no reason to think it's linked to terrorism yet, but as far as I'm concerned, does it matter whether we're talking about a single person going out of line or a larger group or cause? Not really - it still happened either way.

 

So I just want to reassure everyone that I'm okay and that, for anyone who'd made that connection in their heads between myself and Toronto yesterday if they saw the news (I'd said I was from Canada, but not which city, but since Toronto's one of the biggest and most well-known cities here, maybe some of you already assumed that?), my apologies for not putting this out there sooner. I'm obviously still sad and a bit shaken, but I'm not hurt, nor - again, to the best of my knowledge - were any of my family and friends.

 

Well, I do want to include something JW- related, because it is his fan forum here after all - and besides, JW was one of those people who convinced me that there's still some good in this world, so I guess it's only natural that, now that the initial shock has passed, he's on my mind as a source of reassurance.

 

So here are some pics for now!

 

Spoiler

Kudos to the fan who put this together - Cha Yoo Jin and Seol Nae Il's separate reactions to the dress-shopping scene on "Nae Il's Cantabile"

 

 

Such a sweet smile

 

 

 

 

 

Love the thumbs-up here :) 

 

 

 

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Dropping by with some pics for today!

 

Spoiler

Cute pouty face

 

 

Even though I don't have an Instagram account, I saw the whole trivia contest thing about JW's favourite colours - I'm not sure what I was expecting, but I'm also not surprised that they turned out to be black and white. So here are some shots of him in those two colours (again!)

 

 

 

 

Choosing this shot from "Nae Il's Cantabile" both for the colour (:wink:) and the pose:

 

 

A nice behind-the-scenes shot from "My Sassy Girl"

 

 

These shots of JW and Shim Eun Kyung at an event are really cute, too - the story's in the caption, and the conversation in the comments is worth checking out as well. (Long story short: the fans decided that SEK looked really pretty in that dress, and Cha Yoo Jin was making a comeback :tongue:)

 

 

 

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Just stopping by for today's pics - this time, again, it's Throwback Thursday

 

Spoiler

This moment from 1N2D was so cute! Especially when he found out she was in her 90s, and his jaw just dropped, as it usually does.

 

 

Group photo of some of the cast from "Ojakgyo Brothers"

 

 

"Level 7 Civil Servant" Behind the Scenes - I especially like the picture on the top right (matching socks!) - From this Instagram slideshow: https://www.instagram.com/p/BWDhuPvlzyd/?taken-by=happy_khine_khine

 

 

"Level 7 Civil Servant" Behind the Scenes -

 

A really sweet behind-the-scenes photo from "King of Baking, Kim Tak Gu"

 

 

JW in light pink - both as Gu Ma Jun and as Lee Kang To

 

 

Some shots of JW from "S.I.U." - It's a slideshow, so make sure you click through to see everything.

 

 

 

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I guess we're coming close to a new page now? Because Soompi is getting rather laggy here for me - or, at least, more laggy than usual (it's never not lagging, I've found :tongue:).

 

I will admit that, on my computer at least, I think one of the reasons for the lag is the ads on this site. I use an ad-blocking app on my browser (Google Chrome), and there's a little icon that shows me how many items the app has blocked since I first get onto whichever page I'm on. Right now, more than 40 ads have been blocked so far just on this page alone - if I'm posting a fic, which takes longer, that number can easily go into the 100-200 range. O_O Point is: I don't know what on earth is trying to get loaded in the background that my computer's spending so much time and effort trying to block, but 1) I'm glad it is being blocked, and 2) what the heck, Soompi? Why so many ads?!

 

But anyway, here I am with today's pics!

 

Spoiler

His expressions in these pics are so cute and funny!

 

 

 

I'm not really sure where or when these pics are from, but I like seeing JW's sportier side

 

 

Liking this shot from "Yong Pal"

 

 

Similar pose, but very different feelings

 

 

A collage of mask pics

 

 

Ending it off for today with sleepy JW :) 

 

 

 

(EDIT: Bingo! - Sorry, you'll just have to imagine the voice, you know which one I'm talking about - It did turn into a new page with this post, after all.)

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I've been having a rather busy time of things myself in my offline life, so right now, there's not much to offer except some more pics.

 

(In other words: no, I haven't had a chance to start writing again - although I do know what I want to do next :wink:)

 

Spoiler

This moment from "Nae Il's Cantabile" was really cute - too bad the pics cut out just before we see Cha Yoo Jin flinching in response, though :tongue: 

 

 

Childhood and adult versions of Gyun Woo and Princess Hyemyung in "My Sassy Girl"

 

 

I don't think this next one requires any explanation :tongue: 

 

 

Cutie smirk!

 

 

Looking so cool in the shades and leather jacket! :glasses:

 

 

That's a contagious smile, right there - once you see it, you can't help smiling back :D 

 

 

Loving all these casual Mountia outfits

 

 

 

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