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SRM Sounds Max Richter Piano

Kontakt Instrument By Dave Stewart
Published June 2024

SRM Sounds Max Richter Piano

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 5/5 Stars

Composer Max Richter’s works encompass solo albums, concert hall and theatre performances, ballet, film and TV, including scores for Hostiles, Black Mirror, Taboo, Mary Queen Of Scots and Ad Astra. This prolific creator now turns his hand to sample libraries with Max Richter Piano, the first of a series of instrument collections released on the composer’s SRM Sounds label. The library is 98GB installed and requires Kontakt Player or Kontakt version 6.8.0 or higher.

Recorded at Studio Richter Mahr, Oxfordshire in collaboration with UK company Song Athletics, the product has impressive specs: the piano is a world‑beating Steinway D‑274 concert grand, while the acoustically isolated studio’s near‑zero noise floor is ideal for savouring the lingering die‑away of note tails. Such subtlety invites a light touch — as Richter points out, “This piano is a specialist. It loves to play quietly and whisper in your ear. If you are looking to cut through a busy mix, then go elsewhere, but if you want to evoke the intimate stories we all carry inside us, then you will be well served by this instrument.”

The library contains two deeply multi‑sampled versions of the piano. The first is a conventional open miking; the second a darker, more intimate presentation achieved by placing mics underneath the piano, closing its lid and wrapping it in its large padded cover. Both versions feature 10 dynamic layers covering the ppp to mf range, five round robins and three mic positions: the open piano was close‑miked with vintage and modern ribbon and capacitor microphones, while the closed version provides close, room and ambient positions.

I was pleasantly surprised by the close piano’s warm, inviting tone and musical adaptability.

A quick improvisation confirms this is a very fine instrument. The bass notes’ wonderfully deep, richly resonant and imperious tone provide a perfect foundation for the crystalline high register, and although I missed the incision of a loud forte layer in the upper octaves, the piano is a pleasure to play nonetheless. I found it helpful to reduce the default velocity sensitivity control setting to suit my touch, and though I usually favour an open piano sound, I was pleasantly surprised by the close piano’s warm, inviting tone and musical adaptability.

The elegantly simple interface sports action, damper and pedal volume controls governing the extraneous mechanical noises associated with piano performance — I prefer not to hear them, but a hint of pedal clunk arguably adds realism. Long and short reverb controls introduce a pleasant artificial ambience, and there’s a round robin reset button which currently lacks MIDI automation.

Subtle rather than banging, softly spoken and lacking the digital effects which adorn today’s Kontakt libraries, this Steinway D reflects its owner’s musical personality. Using his beloved instrument’s built‑in Spirio player piano system, Mr Richter can record and play back his performances — now, in exchange for 150 quid, so can you.