Atmosphere aplenty in this wide-ranging recital

Patrick Yim: Digital Mist

The Strad Issue: November 2022

Description: Atmosphere aplenty in this wide-ranging recital

Musicians: Patrick Yim (violin) Kiu Tung Poon (piano) Sebastian Currier (sound samples)

Works: Works by George Tsontakis, Sebastian Currier, Nathan Currier and Chen Yi

Catalogue number: NAXOS 8.559903

It’s a pretty personal selection of US violin music from the past four decades that Honolulu-born Patrick Yim has chosen for this eclectic but rewarding disc. And though, taken from end to end, it adds up to a bit of a disconcerting listen, the wide-ranging repertoire nonetheless serves to show up many sides of Yim’s deeply expressive, finely nuanced playing. He’s faithful to the quicksilver mood swings of George Tsontakis’s aphoristic, expressionistic Three Sighs, Three Variations, for example, and tackles the scattergun musical allusions and quotations (from Schubert via Rachmaninoff to Messiaen and beyond) within Nathan Currier’s Hush Cries the Lamb in a way that almost makes sense of the composer’s restlessly shifting music.

The disc’s highlight is the piece that gives it its title, by Nathan’s brother Sebastian: his accompanying sound samples act like an enormous piano sustaining pedal, amplifying, transforming and even sometimes prefiguring the sounds produced by Yim and pianist Kiu Tung Poon, who’s an effective presence throughout. The result is a haunted, atmospheric work, one that slips in and out of tonality, and which allows Yim a real opportunity to display his immaculate technique, with expressive, ever-changing vibrato and minutely considered tonal variations matching the music’s fluctuating emotions.

Three short pieces by Chen Yi round off the disc, offering contrasting evocations of traditional Chinese music, nimbly played by Yim. One note of warning: the extremely close recording captures every detail of bowing, vibrato and phrasing, shining a fierce spotlight on Yim’s impressive technique, but in a somewhat cold, analytical manner that doesn’t offer much warmth or resonance.