NI’s new instrument makes owning and playing a Stradivarius easier than ever before!
Playable, expressive solo violins are one of the holy grails of the sampling world. It’s a similar problem to producing a convincing solo sax or electric guitar: how the heck to cover the sheer range of articulation and tone colours a good player continually utilises, along with the subtle but crucial transitions between the notes. And then to make it all available in a DAW, most likely driven from a standard MIDI master keyboard.
Stradivari Violin is Native Instruments’ response to the challenge, developed in conjunction with Hamburg‑based e‑instruments. They’ve recorded a single violin, the silvery‑sounding 1727 ‘Vesuvius’ made towards the end of Stradivari’s life, which is currently in the collection of the Museo del Violino in Cremona, Italy. The capture took place in the auditorium there, apparently involving no fewer than 32 microphones, multiple virtuosi sharing the playing duties, and security guards manning the exits (I’m not kidding).
It’s worth noting too that Stradivari Violin is also a component of a larger library, Cremona Quartet, that adds a Guarneri violin, an Amati viola and a Stradivari cello, all enjoying most of the same sampling features. The entire quartet library is twice the cost of the solo violin reviewed here, and there’s an upgrade path for violin owners who’d like to explore some four‑way action later on down the line.
First, a quick rundown of the basics. Stradivari Violin runs in NI’s Kontakt or the free Kontakt Player, on version 6.2.2 or higher. It’s a 23.5GB download (equating to about 39GB of uncompressed sample content) that gives you two NKI patches: a 17GB multi‑mic version (occupying towards 4GB of RAM, with typical disk streaming settings), and a resource‑saving fixed‑mix alternative using 6GB of samples and just over 1GB of RAM.
NKS controller integration extends to the usual coloured keyrange prompts and various control mappings, but the library works well with standard five‑octave MIDI controllers too. Either way, all the important parameters have MIDI CCs ready‑mapped, with straightforward facilities to both learn new CC mappings and also to reconfigure the keys used for selecting different articulations. I found all aspects of presentation, technically speaking, to be completely intuitive and helpful: unlike a real violin there’s a very shallow learning curve.