Art Vista's Malmsjö Acoustic Grand ($100) is atwo-CD set providing a multisampled 19th-century Swedish grandpiano in GigaSampler format. Established in 1843, the J.G.Malmsjö (pronounced: Molm-sheu) piano company was particularlyrenowned for its finely crafted 6-foot salon grands. Theseinstruments were well suited to smaller performance settings andwere praised by Swedish composers Hugo Alfvén and WilhelmStenhammar, as well as the Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg.
The piano sampled for Malmsjö Acoustic Grand wasmade in 1894 for Ivar Berg, who gave it as a wedding gift to hiswife. Their daughter inherited the piano and sold it in 1975 to theparents of Hans Adamson, Art Vista cofounder and producer of thisset.
Every note of the piano was sampled at four volume levels:ppp, p, mf, and f. Each key was played at eachlevel with the damper pedal held down, and the sound was allowed toring until the end of its natural decay. Using the damper pedalyielded a somewhat fuller, more velvety timbre. Careful fastFourier transform (FFT) analysis and editing ensured that each notewould respond appropriately and that normal sustain technique couldbe used effectively.
In addition to the “Malmsjö Acoustic Grand”patch, the set provides a “Malmsjö Rock Piano”variant. Samples at the loudest level in this patch have beenequalized to give the piano a little more bite.
Two additional features of the Malmsjö are worth noting.First, the piano has an 85-note keyboard that stops at A7. Thefinal three notes to C8 have been transposed from the four A7samples. Second, the piano itself was tuned with a true stretchedpiano tuning that is slightly wider than is commonly found insynthesizers and some sampled keyboards. Most pianists —indeed most people — prefer the sound of stretch-tunedpianos, so this is a nice provision for virtual pianists.
Malmsjö Acoustic Grand includes a Help file (inWord format) that describes how you set up your MIDIkeyboard controller to reproduce the response of the realMalmsjö grand piano. (This information is duplicated in boththe ReadMe file and the CD booklet.) Because the sampled instrumentwas designed using a Kawai MP9000 controller, other MP9000 userscan easily set touch parameters to the values that are listed inthe Help file.
People who use other controllers are provided with a rough guideto the Velocity values for each sample layer as well as detailedsuggestions for setting Velocity sensitivity and response curves.Art Vista also provides Web addresses for suggested downloads ofMIDI files that offer additional clues to how MalmsjöAcoustic Grand should sound when performance settings areproperly adjusted. This information doesn't completely eliminatethe guesswork involved in setting up other controllers, but itsignificantly reduces the time spent on tweaking the controller toget the proper response.
Hugo Alfvén praised the Malmsjö pianos for their“softness of tone and dreamlike sonority,” and Icouldn't have said it any better. I also prefer MalmsjöAcoustic Grand's dark mellow tone when I need a more intimatepiano sound. It stands in direct contrast to the thunderousSteinway and bright Yamaha sample CDs that I have heard.
On the other hand, the “Malmsjö Rock Piano”patch is inappropriately named. Despite its added EQ, it doesn'tcut through a traditional rock mix. Its sound is better suited tojazz and blues pieces.
Overall, the $100 price tag is reasonable, and it's an excellentway to add to your piano collection without taking up additionalfloor space. I heartily recommend Malmsjö AcousticGrand.