Vienna Symphonic Library's Solo Strings II adopts the same template as their Appassionata Strings II and Chamber Strings II (SOS November 2008), by adding a large set of muted (con sordino) samples to the non‑muted performances in the original volumes. Attaching mutes to violin-family instruments has an effect akin to EQing or filtering: bow noise is greatly reduced, and the tone becomes softer and smoother, lacking the high and upper‑middle sonic energy of unmuted performances.
The mute enhances the solo violin's sordino performance legatos' sweet, singing quality, creating a subtle, expressive timbre for quieter passages. A similar tonal mutation sees the solo cello's sordino harmonics transformed into a cross between a stroked wine glass and a harmonium, an ethereal timbre I'd be keen to exploit in a film soundtrack. In some cases, attaching the mute has a clarifying effect: the solo double bass's sordino pfp (piano-forte-piano) swells sound less muddy in the low register than their unmuted counterparts, and they're therefore better suited to chordal work. Displaying masterful co‑ordination of volume and vibrato strength, the viola player's emotional rendition of the same articulation is very effective.
Solo Strings II also contains a collection of exciting, non‑muted 'fast repetition' performances, including crescendo and diminuendo repetitions and rousing violin 'bow ricochets', perfect for galloping adventure themes. The library is available in standard and extended versions, runs only on the (included) Vienna Instrument and contains 46GB of samples.
VSL have also bolstered their solo winds with Bassoon II (5.5GB) and Trumpet in Bb (10.5GB), both new, fully fledged, downloadable instruments. This bassoon's tone is softer and more enclosed than the one in VSL's Woodwinds I, and the delivery a little more subdued; nevertheless, Bassoon II's beautifully controlled performances closely match the articulations of the original instrument, making it an ideal companion in scores requiring two bassoons.
As well as covering orchestral styles with some panache, Trumpet in Bb introduces some new jazzy articulations. It adds no muted samples to those played by VSL's main C trumpet, and its falls are a little polite, but the bright delivery and vibrato performances, along with some excellent portamentos and slides, make it an instrument which would be equally at home in a jazz / big‑band arrangement or orchestral score.
If your orchestral needs are restricted to crash‑bang‑wallop Hollywood‑style action cues, these specialist supplementary titles are probably not for you. However, muted solo strings are an essential ingredient for the committed orchestrator, and the alternative performances of the secondary wind instruments form a great resource when generating full scores. The company's trademark attention to musical detail and wonderfully real‑sounding legatos make all three releases worthy additions to the Vienna sound world. Dave Stewart
Solo Strings II (DVD collection) Standard library £295; Extended library £215. Bassoon II 95 Euros; Trumpet in Bb 115 Euros (downloads). Prices include VAT.
Time + Space +44 (0)1837 55200.