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By Pat Moran | From the July-August 2022 issue of Strings magazine

From the music that accompanied the poetry of troubadour Chrétien de Troyes to the hunting horn blown too late to avert disaster in La Chanson de Roland, medieval life and art was immersed in a soundtrack that, for the most part, we can no longer hear. With Minne, Holland Baroque teams up with alternative folk outfit the Bastarda Trio to rectify this situation, giving life to an age that seems remote to modern sensibilities—and they do it through the language of love.


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Minne-Holland-Baroque-Bastarda-Trio-album

Minne
Holland Baroque; Bastarda Trio
(Pentatone Records)

It’s not the courtly love ennobled by de Troyes that inspires this album, however. Instead, it’s the intense spiritual love espoused by a 13th-century poet named Hadewijch. To get to the heart of the medieval mystic’s message, the collaborators wisely avoid trying to sound medieval—or even Baroque. Instead, the orchestra and trio of cello, clarinet, and contrabass clarinet turn to jazz, pop, and improvisation for inspiration.

“Gaude,” composed by the Bastarda Trio, conjoins playful violins and plucked pizzicato strings with saucy clarinet that plays like half-speed klezmer to suggest the passionate yet platonic outpouring of emotion in Hadewijch’s poetry. “Orewoet” is a forgotten word in Middle Dutch that Hadewijch uses to express desire. That fervor is animated by music that suggests 1920s Harlem far more than medieval Brabant. Beginning as a hymn essayed by skirling violins, it’s transformed by insouciant blues clarinet and a dissonant wedge of strings.

The title track derives its moniker from a word even more obscure than orewoet. “Minne” seems to have meanings that remain private to Hadewijch, though it likely encompasses the myriad forms of love. With a stirring Celtic-tinged melody shadowed by prowling, descending contrabass clarinet, Holland Baroque and the Bastarda Trio choose to define minne musically, embracing the passion, joy, and surprising modernity of a Dutch mystic calling across the centuries.