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Peter Siedlaczek's Advanced Orchestra Compact Edition

Sample Library By Dave Stewart
Published November 2000

Peter Siedlaczek's Advanced Orchestra Compact Edition

Rating: *** 3/5 Stars


The new Compact Edition is a bite‑sized compilation of (allegedly) the most useful instruments from the Advanced Orchestra library. My first impression was that this 'light' collection was practically weightless — the CD contains only 135Mb of samples, leaving 375Mb of empty disc space.

The Advanced Orchestra's string ensembles are not its strongest point (though the 'Upgrade 97' set improved matters). The 'Compact' version takes the strings from the main library and does a good job of blending violins, violas, cellos and double basses into one ready‑to‑play string section. Though the sound is dry (sometimes exaggeratedly so — get your reverb units ready) and the blended timbre somewhat synthetic, the tuning is accurate and the loops are smooth. This combined section offers sustained, tremolando, staccato, pizzicato, and con sordino (with mutes) notes. Some col legno (hit with back of bow) violins and violas are included, although they're hardly essential.

Brass and woodwind are also presented in blended ensemble form. The crossfade between trombones and trumpets has been well executed, but the quiet brass performances are too soft and muted in comparison to the loud samples. A reed‑heavy woodwind mix offers some vivacious, colourful staccatos, albeit with drastically truncated note‑ends. I assume this is because the source samples ended at different times, requiring painful sonic surgery to their rear end to bring them into line.

I was momentarily stirred by the solo violin's fierce attack and passionate vibrato, but if a waiter veered towards my table playing with such intensity, I'd probably skip coffee and ask for the bill. Other than that, the modest selection of solo instruments did not quicken my pulse, and the red mist descended when I discovered the cello, French horn and trombone were not looped. The horn's loud tone borders on the ugly and the trombone lacks a positive attack. One saving grace is the pleasant‑sounding harp, which plays single notes as well as arpeggios and chords.

The Compact Edition contains a slender 14Mb of orchestral percussion. The (mono) timps are quite strong, and the tam tam (large gong) is great. The cymbal hits are useable, but the swells are processed and sound like cymbal decays played backwards!

The most entertaining samples are the clumsily‑named 'Stylistics'. No, it's not the '70s soul group doing their famous imitation of a contrabassoon, but 32Mb of miscellaneous performance samples such as fast woodwind and string runs, trombone slides, French horn glissandi and so on These attractive micro‑performances reflect the real power and scope of the Advanced Orchestra library.

This disc left me wanting more, though not in the way its makers intended. With so much empty disc space, I would have appreciated some solo woodwinds, and one or two of the myriad expressive performance variations — trills, grace notes, crescendos and so on — at which Advanced Orchestra excels. As it is, this selection seems insubstantial and fails to adequately demonstrate the best material from the main library. Dave Stewart