A spherical view of the Baltimore Symphony, by Zach Stern.

Ableton announced that they’d be doing an orchestral sample library — called, logically enough, the Orchestral Instrument Collection — way back when Live Suite came out last year. But Orchestral Instruments actually didn’t ship then. As of this week, it is shipping.

You can buy the whole library for US$599, or you can pick up sections a la carte for $189 (or, oddly, $159 for Orchestral Percussion). Like the Essential Instruments Collection, the samples come from SONiVOX, with high-fidelity and low-fidelity (read: lightweight for performance) versions. There’s also something new called "SmartPriming" for system resources. I haven’t yet gotten my hands on this, so I can’t comment yet; obviously, it comes down to how important Live integration is to you, or whether you’d prefer a third-party orchestral library.

The a la carte sections, though, makes me think of Garrison Keillor’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra skit. (It’s Classical Music humor. My apologies.) One way to choose sections: think about which God would want you to buy. Excerpt:

But for a Lutheran who feels led to play in an orchestra, the first question must be: are you kidding? An orchestra? Are you sure this is what you want? Do you know what you are getting into? Opera. Is that anyplace for a Christian? Don Juan and Mephistopheles and Wagner and all his pagan goddesses hooting and hollering, and the immorality — I mean, is anybody in opera married?

Not to give away the punchline, but not surprisingly harps and percussion (think about the patience required to be an orchestral percussionist) win out, so that could theoretically guide your purchase decision here. Just remember:

The French Horn takes too much of a person’s life. French horn players hardly have time to marry and have children. The French horn is practically a religion all by itself.

Software is different, of course. A Young Lutheran’s Guide to Music Software, anyone?