CANTON, Ohio, July 4, 2017 – As this column is always eager to review products which fill an unmet or underserved musical need, it was a natural fit to take the new “Rinascimento” package from FluffyAudio for a test drive. Offering a diverse battery of medieval and renaissance choices, Rinascimento may be the virtual instrument many composers have been waiting for in this age of renewed interest in the early music genres.
Rinascimento brings brass instruments, flutes (including a full battery of renaissance recorders), keyboard instruments (such as the harpsichord, organ and lesser served portative organ), a large selection of plucked instruments and lutes (including dedicated open string instruments), a single percussion instrument, reeds and bowed strings into a single comprehensive package which will likely cover most needs in this stylistic area.
Whether you need a more commonly available Hurdy Gurdy (Fig. 1) or a much rarer Dulciana (not the organ stop, but rather, the clunky yet character filled ancestor of the bassoon), composers are provided with a large selection of sampled instruments to choose from.
Each instrument includes numerous selectable reverb settings with a close/mid/far microphone mixer as well as customizable tuning and built in pitch humanize settings. A nice touch is the provided picture and description for each instrument, especially useful for those lesser known selections.
While instruments from this era were generally not played with vibrato, Rinascimento provides a generally convincing modeled vibrato, which is mapped to the mod wheel and adjustable even through held notes.
Highlights in the pack include the recorder family, from which we were immediately able to coax – with variable vibrato settings from none to rapid – everything from grade school hijinks to that signature and hauntingly mournful Zbigniew Priesner recorder sound (see the soundtracks for the Decalogue and the Three Colors Trilogy). The flexibility of this family also demonstrated that such instruments can be easily blended into a modern context.
Also supremely useful was the strum designer (Fig. 2), which can be activated and customized for plucked instruments.
Another well-thought out feature respects the monophonic nature of most of the instruments in the package. This permits more idiomatic playing as well as the performance of much more convincing trills and mordents so common in this musical era. For instruments with actual polyphonic ability, such as bowed strings, a polyphonic key switch is included.
Sometimes a bit of daring should accompany praise. Below is a YouTube video of a medieval-style tune improvised in Pro Tools during the very first use of Rinascimento, including the Hurdy Gurdy, Colascione, Tabor Pipe, and Percussion instruments. No post-editing was used in this mix, aside from some gentle adjusting and panning within Kontakt itself.
We used the Hurdy Gurdy in the “medieval jam” in legato mode, allowing us to hold the available drone notes while playing the melodic line above. The excellent-sounding leaps and turns were accomplished by holding the lower note of a figure and striking the higher one. This is is an example of intelligent programming leading to idiomatic results. The Tabor Pipe largely doubled the Hurdy Gurdy, while the lovely Colascione sound can be heard more clearly in the exposed ending. Percussion in Rinascimento is mapped to a single patch, making it easy to quickly select matching instruments and lay down a convincing rhythmic pattern.
There are a few curious omissions in this package, including the lack of universal round robins. Certain instruments, such as the percussion or plucked strings, do include this crucial feature, which is well executed. Others, however, such as wind instruments and even the baroque violin lack it.
In addition, given the depth of the instrument selection in this package, it is unfortunate that the frequently used and often evocative Viola da gamba was not sampled. This reviewer would certainly encourage a gamba update in the future.
These few shortcomings aside, Rinascimento is a deeply considered and gorgeously sampled instrument exhibiting few weaknesses. The quality of its sound alone is enough lead to quick compositional inspiration, something our quickly improvised medieval jam can attest to.
At $299.00 (full version of Kontakt required) Rinascimento is a fairly priced upgrade many many a digital orchestra. Congratulations are due to FluffyAudio for creating a real gem of a useful instrument, an effort we hope to see repeated again in the future. Bravo!