Few times do we come across an artist that leaves an imprint within our souls in a dimension beyond excellence. It is in those instances that music transcends its physical nature and serves as a bridge with that which is bigger than music itself, bigger than the artist, bigger than the humanity it reaches. These moments are unique even for the performer, but even a single moment created as such can fuel the soul of the artist and those gifted communing as an audience.
Such was the experience during María José Montiel’s recital at the Kennedy Center in February of 2013 following her appearance as Carmen with the Atlanta Opera in 2012. The Spanish diva has now re-released two of her recordings this year: Live, Toldrá Recital and her Grammy nominated Modinha, Brazilian Songs.
The Toldra Recital was recorded live by Radio Nacional de España at the Madrid March Foundation on May 17, 1995, with a repertoire centered around the work of Eduard Toldrá, in which María José Montiel performs with the unmistakable piano accompaniment of the master of masters Miguel Zanetti. ‘In fact I accepted this re-issue not only because of the value of the recorded repertoire, but also as a tribute to the great pianist that was Miguel Zanetti, an exceptional and generous musician, a great connoisseur of piano and a good friend,’ María José Montiel has explained.
Modinha, Brazilian Songs, includes classical songs by composers such as Heitor Villa-Lobos and popular pieces with special arrangements for voice and piano as well as many modinha pieces. The genre known as modinha — which titles the CD — is considered one of the first song styles to emerge in Brazil in the seventeenth century. It is considered a derivative of the melodic and courtly Moda that came from Portugal and that became popular after being the Brazilian imperial court’s favorite. María José Montiel recorded Modinha in May of 1999 together with Brazilian pianist Luiz de Moura Castro, who authored some of the arrangements included in the album. Modinha, Brazilian Songs was nominated for a Grammy in 2002.
The extraordinary beauty of María José Montiel’s deep velvet voice has certainly been captured in these recordings. Her artistry brings the music alive, particularly in the Toldrá Recital album, where she weaves all sounds into a tapestry were every note is delivered with detailed care and intention. Being a native of Spain, she sings this repertoire with the comfort that comes from intrinsic knowledge and understanding of the music.
One can only hope that she will be returning to stages in the United States soon, though her schedule has her committed in Europe and the Middle East through half of 2015. If she does indeed return, this writer strongly advises you attend what would no doubt be an event to remember. In the meantime, these two recordings can bring some of her magic to you…