Yim Hok-Man, percussion – Master of Chinese Percussion (with guests and The Central Virtuosi/Zia Fei-Yun) – First Impression Music K2 HD disc LIM K2HD 033, 61:27 ****:

Another in the series of K2 HD mastering discs that play on standard CD players, this very colorful album was recorded in 1998 in Beijing – not an expected site for originating audiophile recordings.  HDCD encoding was used  in the original recording and the fidelity is fabulous. Using the proprietary process of Tokyo’s Flair Studio, 192K/24-bit information was packed into the 44.1K/16-bit CD format.

Hong Kong-based artist Yim Hok-Man is an accomplished percussionist in both Western and Chinese operatic music.  He has performed under famous symphony conductors and is a member of the Chinese Folk Symphonic Music Society as well as other groups.  The variety of percussion sounds, both tonal and non-tonal, on these eight tracks is quite astounding.  The notes point out that one of the major differences between Chinese and Western percussion is that instead of sticks with padded heads, Chinese players use plain wooden sticks which give a sharper sound.

Several of the pieces attempt to depict various animals – ducks, pheasants, or as one selection is entitled: “A Lion Just Woken.”  The noisy ducks in the water are skillfully depicted by the sharp-sounding cymbals and drums of Chinese opera, and the lion dance involves playful variations on a Cantonese folk song played on the xylophone. The final track – one of three involving the folk orchestra – is based on the folk gong and drum music of Ahou Shan Island, including a newly-developed drum known as a pai drum, as well a conch shells.

The transparency, clarity and impact of the sharp transients in the recordings come thru more effectively than any standard CD I have ever heard.  While one might find a program of all folk percussion music – especially Chinese percussion music for a non-Chinese listener – might be a bit tedious, there is actually a wide variety of sounds and music to savor here, especially with the excellent sonics and spatial placement.  As to the latter, although it loses a small portion of the clarity, playback via ProLogic II extends and wraps around an even more exciting spatial placement. Diagrams in the Chinese-language part of the note booklet illustrate the placement of both the various drums and mikes, as done in some Japanese audiophile recordings.

TrackList: Poem of Chinese Drum, Ducks’ Quarrel, The Garden of Hundreds of Flowers, The Golden Pheasant Flying Out of the Mountain, Deep in the Night, A Lion Just Woken, Big Canon Firing Towards the Sky, Triumphal Return of the Fishing Boats.

 – John Sunier