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Orchestral Tools Pēteris Vasks Strings

Sample Library By Dave Stewart
Published April 2024

Orchestral Tools Pēteris Vasks Strings

Orchestral Tools’ new strings library distils the sound world of a major European composer.

Since deep‑sampling every nook and cranny of the orchestra in their estimable Berlin and Metropolis Ark series, Orchestral Tools have spread their wings with a multitude of non‑orchestral libraries. Notable examples include Chinese, South American and Baroque period instruments, the excellent Glory Days big band horns and Tom Holkenborg’s storming brass and percussion libraries, the latter featuring the incendiary drums used in Mad Max: Fury Road. The company also ventured into electronic territory with their affordable Fabrik series and Alexander Hacke’s experimental drones library.

Despite these excursions, Orchestral Tools have never lost sight of their core mission, and likely never will. Recent releases Tallinn and Salu (reviewed in SOS in August 2021 and June 2023 respectively) explore the delicate, minimal sound world of Estonian chamber strings and choirs in collaboration with Michael Pärt, son of renowned composer Arvo Pärt. The company’s latest major release takes a similar tack: recorded in the neighbouring Baltic state of Latvia, it’s a creative partnership with one of the country’s most celebrated musical sons, composer Pēteris Vasks.


Pēteris Vasks Strings (originally 234GB in size, 96.7GB when installed) consists of small string ensembles (first and second violins, violas, cellos and basses) and their corresponding first‑chair soloists. The samples were performed by members of the Grammy‑winning Sinfonietta Rīga chamber orchestra and recorded in St. John’s Church in Latvia’s capital Riga. Like all Orchestral Tools collections released since 2019, the library runs exclusively on the proprietary Sine player, which you can use as a plug‑in in your DAW or operate standalone on your computer desktop.

The Sine Player’s interface links directly to the Orchestral Tools store, where you can download separate instruments and individual mic positions.The Sine Player’s interface links directly to the Orchestral Tools store, where you can download separate instruments and individual mic positions.

The inspiration for this project was Pēteris Vasks’ acclaimed Voices symphony for string orchestra, which deals with the inner struggles of the Latvian people as they fought for independence from Soviet rule (see box). Orchestral Tools’ goal was to capture the sound and spirit of the piece with all of its unique techniques and textures, working closely with Vasks to ensure his musical vision was correctly represented.

As well as the bread‑and‑butter articulations you’d expect to find in a strings library, this collection features special expressive styles invented by the composer, which Orchestral Tools call ‘gestures’. While these unusual, ear‑catching articulations step out of the ordinary and help give the library its unique character, the standard articulations offer plenty of scope for traditional string arrangements.

Ensembles - Sustains

In PVS (as I’ll have to call it to placate my spellchecker) Orchestral Tools adopt an unusual approach with their velocity crossfades. This feature assigns dynamic control to your keyboard’s mod wheel, enabling you to crossfade smoothly between instruments’ dynamic layers and create natural‑sounding swells, fades and crescendos. In this library the ensemble long notes’ three dynamics feature varying degrees of con sordino muting: the lowest pp dynamic was played with mutes attached, half of the players removed their mutes for the middle mf layer, while the loudest ff performances were played without mutes.

Each layer also has a different vibrato intensity — the quiet notes use little or none, the middle dynamic introduces a restrained vibrato and the loud layer features a full (but not over the top) vibrato style. This means you can create expressive melody lines which start out subdued and austere‑sounding before blossoming into an intense, emotive loud delivery, a transition often heard in Pēteris Vasks’ string writing.

Sustains offer a choice of immediate and soft attacks along with a delicate ‘whispered’ sordino variant. In this, half the players play sul tasto while the other half play with the back of the bow (col legno tratto), resulting in a beautifully soft and breathy texture. The immediate sustains and whispered patches have a corresponding monophonic legato mode which does an excellent job of smoothing out melodic note transitions — I particularly liked the second violins’ sweet, lyrical legato style and the graceful, dignified tone of the cello legatos.

Ensembles - Assorted Articulations

A common orchestral library fixture, the ‘portato’ articulation usually consists of slightly accented non‑legato notes of around one second’s duration. PVS’ interpretation is more dramatic, introducing a pronounced volume swell which each ensemble plays at a slightly different length. The cellos’ version is one of the standouts of the library, a yearning, heartfelt rendition which sounds great when played chordally.

Other deviations from the norm include trills played in minor thirds as well as the usual tone and semitone intervals, and ‘measured trills’ which can be sync'ed to DAW tempo. Though the latter’s rhythmic pulse is fairly subtle, the metered...

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