Antonio Salieri set Shakespeare’s comedy The Merry Wives of Windsor to music in 1799, and his work was successfully premiered in Vienna the same year. Michael Hampe staged Salieris’s Falstaff at the Schwetzingen SWR Festival in 1995 with similar success – wonderfully supported by the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra and conductor Arnold Östman. The libretto by Carlo Prospero Defranceschi reduces Shakespeare’s original play to a few main characters and drastically simplifies the plot. This gives John Del Carlo, Teresa Ringholz, Richard Croft and Delores Ziegler a lot of space for their artistic interpretation and brilliant singing. The work lives from the wealth of the Italian opera buffa and absorbed influences from the German Singspiel (song-play), and delights with a number of great arias.
The original soundtrack to Steven Soderbergh's striking drug war drama Traffic features Cliff Martinez's sparse, evocative score, classical pieces, and electronica, resulting in a collection of music that's nearly as complex and diverse as the film it accompanies. Martinez, who has scored virtually all of Soderbergh's films (except Erin Brockovich), proves once again why they work together so often: the score's atmospheric drones and understated rhythms build a restrained, implosive tension far better than blaring orchestral pieces. Like the film itself, Martinez' pieces aren't obvious. They don't tell the listener what to feel; they just set the scene and let the audience fill in the blanks. And though big beat songs like Fatboy Slim's "Give the Po' Man a Break" and Kruder & Dorfmeister's remix of Rockers Hi-Fi's "Going Under" could be too much of a contrast with Martinez' airy compositions, the album is deftly sequenced, allowing for the highs and lows of the score and songs like Morcheeba's "On the Road Again," Wilhelm Kempff's "Piano Sonata No. 1 in F minor," and Brian Eno's "An Ending (Ascent)." Though it sounds even better in conjunction with the film, Traffic is still one of 2000's best soundtracks.
You have to admire New York Voices' diversity – this is a jazz vocal group that has embraced everything from modal post-bop and Brazilian jazz to Stevie Wonder pearls. And how many artists have devoted an entire album to jazz interpretations of Paul Simon tunes? Not everything the Voices have recorded is great, but more often than not, their sense of adventure and open-mindedness have served them well. After paying tribute to pop-rocker Simon in 1997, the Voices make big band music the main focus of Sing, Sing, Sing. This time, they are backed by a big band and turn their attention to gems associated with swing icons like Benny Goodman ("Sing, Sing, Sing," "Don't Be That Way"), Duke Ellington ("In A Mellow Tone"), Woody Herman ("Early Autumn"), and Artie Shaw ("Stardust"). Although many of these classics came out of the Swing Era, Sing, Sing, Sing also has its share of post-World War II gems. Ralph Burns' lovely "Early Autumn" is a gem that Herman recorded in 1948, when he was exploring bop with his Second Herd and the Four Brothers. And "Orange Colored Sky," which was a major hit for Nat "King" Cole in 1950, is quite relevant to the CD's big band theme because Cole recorded it with the Stan Kenton Orchestra.