Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Hans Bumsen - an Appreciation

Hans Amadeus Bumsen 1700 - 1757 -a Monograph by P.P.

Born in Tippelbruder on April 1st, 1700, Hans Amadeus Bumsen is surely one of the 18th Century’s unsung geniuses. Although he is rarely heard now, most of his works having been lost for reasons cited below, he inspired and inflamed debate amongst the most elite members of the musical circles of Europe during the Enlightenment. Indeed, his motifs and themes run throughout European classical music, pale shadows of their ghostly forebears.

His parents, Jacob Bumsen and Maria Klopp were actively involved in music, Jacob being a writer of scurrilous verse which Maria would sell by singing them up and down the inns and bawdy houses of “KlinkenGlasseStrasse”. Hans was a sickly child and long periods of absence from school allowed him to develop a precocious musical talent first on the Bumbast, then on the infinitely more subtle organistrum or drehorgel. His skill with the bumbast was such that, according to school legend, having heard the emission only once, he could immediately play an imitation of anyone flatulating. He is generally regarded as the European master of the vielle a roue, and would later in his career resent the then current English vulgarity of naming the instrument as “hurdy-gurdy”. His father, though usually inebriated, took time to teach young Hans, the rudiments of the instrument. [Maria, who came from Hesse, was one of a family of twenty-eight so was probably one of the first “Hurdy Gurdy girls”, unwanted female children presented with a home-made organistrum as an sexual inducement for a sale, whose desperate plight so outraged German reformers. It is known that she was much younger than Jacob, surviving him by some thirty years. From his mother, who was part Gypsy, he learnt to read fortunes and card sharp to an exceptional level of skill, attainments which would allay poverty in his closing years.

Jacob insisted that Hans leave school early to help the family business. In truth, Hans was not unhappy to leave school. Like many prodigies he possessed a precocious side and by the age of eight he was already notorious for his temper, his aptitude for petty larceny and his ability to resent even the most minute and unintentional slight, while his capacity for intricate and damaging revenge was far in advance of his years. These qualities would largely direct his life and future career. His school mates were, sad to say, glad to see him depart. He was a more than capable bully. Many of them had experience of one of his favourite tricks - the insertion of a short length of smouldering slow match between the soles of their shoes and the subsequent intense pain was known as a “Bumsen Burner”. The family lived on in desperate poverty, Hans having to carry and wash slop pots for a meagre living, until Jacob wrote, “Franciska Hügel : Memoires einer Frau des Vergnügens” in 1710. An instant success throughout central Europe and beyond, the initial royalties from the novel were invested by Jacob in the purchase of what would become Trippelbruder’s most celebrated and exclusive house of ill-repute, “Die Western im Mai”, the profits from which would enable Hans to live in relative comfort for almost the rest of his life. [Ever scrupulous to protect his family rights, he would unsuccessfully and expensively pursue the slippery John Cleland through the English courts for abject plagiarism of his father’s great opus.] “Die Western in Mai”, sited at the town’s central crossroads, ideally situated for passing trade where the bierhalles of“KlingkenGlasseStrasse” intersect with the weinerei of “TippelbruderRhinehessenWeinGlasseStrasse”, soon attracted a substantial and illustrious clientele, and these provided an opportunity for blackmail. It is said that Maria hired artists of some repute to observe and record liaisons through the numerous peepholes built into the fabric of the inn. Francois Boucher may have worked there in the 1720’s, but certainly the young Fragonard drew many of the clients while en route to Rome in 1749. Their experiences would come to good use in latter life at the licentious court of Le Roi De Soleil. [It may have been one of Fragonard’s more explicit sketches that inspired the soldiers’ parody of the Seven Year’s War cited above. If, as tradition in the town still maintains, Bumsen was responsible for the scurrilous lyrics, this would explain his subsequent pillorying and ejection from his beloved home town.[see below] Maria collated the sketches and held them in a secret place in her rooms.
Bumsen‘s first musical work was nearly his last. Having studied for six months under Dirk van Dyke, the bibulous organist at the Domkirche, he produced his first and only avante-garde Masse, “Die KlingkenglasseStrasse Messe in A”. Played by rubbing the rims of beer steins filled with ale at different levels, what could have been culturally earth shattering ended up as dangerous cacophony. Although it was too late for the young Bumsen, who was pilloried for the first time and forced to see his manuscripts burn, it transpired that the organist had decided to check the carefully tuned tone of each glass just before the performance. As an act of repentance, Bumsen produced his finest work, “Die Tippelbrudernationalehymn” which has since reached a world wide audience.

Bumsen started his peregrination through the courts and universities of Europe in 1717. His voyage from Venice to Pescara was disastrous. He was blown off course and was eventually landed in Apulia. He stopped at Bari in October 1717 and befriended Ricardo, the eldest scion of the wealthy Broschi family. Salvatore, the father, was a musician and administrator of some local repute. Despite the pleas of his children, especially the 12 year-old Carlo, he may also have been fatally addicted to card games, especially new ones. He was little prepared for the labyrinthal complexities of “Schafkopf “as played by, and possibly invented by Bumsen. Carlo demanded that Bumsen leave the house, but was over-ruled by his father. The last hand culminated in a devastating win for Bumsen and Riccardo, Carlo’s brother, when Bumsen’s mauering foiled a seemingly impregnable Schafkopf held by Carlo and Salvatore. The strain of loosing the bulk of the family fortune in two minutes proved too much.Salvatore Broschi died unexpectedly on 4th November aged only 36, and it seems likely that the consequent loss of economic security for the whole family provoked the decision, presumably taken by Riccardo, for Carlo to be castrated. As was often the case, an excuse had to be found for this illegal operation, and in Carlo's case it was said to have been necessitated by a fall from a horse. Bumsen arranged the medical care and may well have had some part in the “accident”. Certainly he and “Farinelli “, as Carlo became known, detested each other. [Bumsen yet again showed the tenacity of his dislike when he arranged through Hasse for Philip V of Spain to listen to the same two arias from Hasse’s “Artaserse” every night for ten years. . Elisabetha Farnese, the Queen, had come to believe that Farinelli's voice might be able to cure the severe depression of her husband. On 25 August 1737, Farinelli was named Chamber Musician to the king, and criado familiar (this translates approximately as "honorary member of the Royal Family"). He never sang again in public.]
While in Venice, Bumsen studied under Vivaldi, to whom he bore a surprising facial resemblance [ they both possessed pendulous noses that raised the hopes of superstitious spinsters.] but his more conservative tastes led to a break with the master and this was followed by a somewhat unsavoury smear campaign headed by Bumpsen and the rather scurrilous Benedetto Marcello which culminated in the publication of “Il teatro alla moda,”[1720] a thinly veiled attack on Vivaldi. The fiery cleric challenged his former pupil to a duel. Having acquired a taste for the blade when younger, indeed, possibly being the anonymous opponent who later killed Sir George Lockhart, the Jacobite spy, in 1731, Bumpsen was most eager to defend his honour, but the intervention of the Pope, Clement XII [” Gentlemen, we cannot afford the loss of one genius – to lose two would be excommunicatable!”] indicates the high regard held for Bumpsen in his Italianate prime. Here Bumsen developed a hatred of Scarlatti, although they never met. Scarlatti was a master of the Harsichord There is a story that in a trial of skill with George Frederic Handel at the palace of Cardinal Ottoboni in Rome, he was judged possibly superior to Handel on that instrument, although inferior on the organ. Later in life, he was known to cross himself in veneration when speaking of Handel's skill. He and Scarlatti were good friends, but Bumsen would never accceptDas verdammte tinkler einer Feder-plucker” and it was as well for Scarlatti that their paths never crossed. This emnity ran to those who employed or supported the unaware maestro. Farinelli, Hasse and Geminiani amongst others.

Bumsen in London : Handel and Hasse

Bumsen was a frequent visitor to London to visit his special friend, the giant of the age, George Fredrick Handel. Bumsen was won over upon their first meeting in As later portraits show, Handel possessed a well-known delight in the joys of the table resulted in a degree of corpulence. People who knew him early in his life, such as Mattheson, and those who knew him late all commented on his wit: "His natural propensity to wit and humour.... Had he been as great a master of the English language as Swift, his bon mots would have been as frequent, and somewhat of the same kind." On the failure of the oratorio Theodora, he is said to have remarked, "the Jews will not come to it... because it is a Christian story; and the Ladies will not come because it [is] a virtuous one."
Despite the social ambiguity of his position in a hierarchical world, Handel apparently mixed easily in a variety of settings: the upper reaches of the Vatican, the royal court, the pleasure palaces of rich nobles, the strange, stage-set world of the opera house, and ordinary middle-class households. There are, I believe, clear indications in letters and diaries of an easy social conviviality that made him a welcome guest at country houses and parties. He seems to have been appreciated as a person and as a performer. Certainly his friendships and working relationships with other musicians were close and lasting. Bumsen liked and admired him and although part responsible for his later demise, supported him utterly.Handel was no saint. There were people he did not like. A number of contemporary anecdotes comment on his temper: "[H]e was irascible, impatient of contradiction, but not vindictive; jealous of his musical pre-eminence, and tenacious in all points, which regarded his professional honour." He also had non-musical interests. He amassed an extensive and varied collection of prints and paintings, some by gift, but probably most at auctions. He bequeathed his two Rembrandts to Lord Granville and two of his portraits to his assistant, J.C. Smith. The later sale included a series of paintings of Jupiter with a number of his sexual partners - Leda, Danae, Io, and Ixion. Perhaps Semele, which Jennens described as Handel's "bawdy opera," was partly stimulated by this purchase. Handel never married, and his sexual life was discreet. I refer, for example, to the dowager Electress' comment on the rumor of his liaison with Victoria Tarquini. The 1703 Treaty of Methuen opened England to the importation of fortified wines from Portugal. These ports and madeiras, in contrast to their modern equivalents, had a high lead content, presumably from piping reinforced with lead that was used in distilling the brandy with which they were fortified. Bumsen introduced Handel to port and this contaminated spirit may have well contributed to his gout and fits of melancholia.

The career of Bumsen’s chief target in London, Johan Adolph Hasse's began in singing, when he joined the Hamburg Opera (his family, who were traditionally church musicians, came from near Hamburg) in 1718 as a tenor. In 1719 he obtained a singing post at the court of Brunswick, where in 1721 his first opera, “Antioco,” was performed; Hasse himself sang in the production.He is thought to have left Germany during 1722. During the 1720s he lived mostly in Naples, dwelling there for six or seven years. In 1725 his serenata Antonio e Cleopatra, was performed at Naples; the principal roles were sung by Carlo Broschi, better known as Farinelli, and Vittoria Tesi. The success of this work not only earned Hasse many commissions from Naples's opera houses, but also, according to Quantz, brought him into contact with Alessandro Scarlatti, who became his teacher and friend; Hasse also altered his style in several respects to reflect that of Scarlatti. Hasse's popularity in Naples increased dramatically and for several years his workload kept him extremely busy. He visited the Venetian Carnival of 1730, where his opera “Artaserse” was performed at the S Giovanni Grisostomo. Metastasio's libretto was heavily reworked for the occasion, and Farinelli took a leading role. Two of his arias from this opera were performed by Farinelli every night for a decade for Philip V of Spain.
That same year he married Faustina Bordoni, who was, along with her great rival Victoria Cuzzoni, one of the great Divas, with whom Bumsen had struck up a brief liaison in Venice in 1717.Her London début, as Rossane in Handel’s Alessandro, took place on 5 May 1726, alongside Cuzzoni. To an aria in her role, of Teofane in Handel's “Ottone”at the King's Theatre, Haymarket there is attached a famous story, vividly illustrating both Cuzzoni’s character and that of the composer. The part not having been originally intended for her (but perhaps for Maddalena Salvai), at rehearsal she refused to sing "Falsa immagine", her first aria. According to the historian John Mainwaring, Handel replied: "Oh! Madame I know well that you are a real she-devil, but I hereby give you notice, me, that I am Beelzebub, the Chief of Devils." Mainwaring continued: "With this, he took her up by the waist, and, if she made any more words, swore that he would fling her out of the window." According to Charles Burney, her singing of this aria "fixed her reputation as an expressive and pathetic singer", and her success was such that the price of half-guinea opera tickets reportedly shot up to four guineas. By the time of her benefit concert only two months later, some noblemen were believed to be giving her fifty guineas a ticket. Her salary was also large: £2000 a season. Her appearance was no recommendation: Burney described her as "short and squat, with a doughy cross face, but fine complexion; ... not a good actress; dressed ill ; and was silly and fantastical." During the next two seasons she created four more Handel roles: Alceste in Admeto and Pulcheria in Riccardo Primero (both 1727), and Emira in Siroe and Elisa in Tolomeo (1728). She also sang in a revival of Radamisto, and in operas by Ariosti and Giovanni Bononcini. In a performance of the latter’s Astianatte on 6 June 1727, her personal and professional rivalry with Cuzzoni exploded into a fight on the stage of the King’s Theatre, Haymarket, in front of Caroline, Princess of Wales. This furore seized the public imagination – the pamphleteer John Arbuthnot published "The DEVIL to pay at St. JAMES's: or A full and true ACCOUNT of a most horrid and bloody BATTLE between Madam FAUSTINA and Madam CUZZONI", in which he lambasted the two ladies: "TWO of a Trade seldom or ever agree … But who would have thought the Infection should reach the Hay-market and inspire Two Singing Ladies to pull each other's Coiffs, to the no small Disquiet of the Directors, who (God help them) have enough to do to keep Peace and Quietness between them. … I shall not determine who is the Aggressor, but take the surer Side, and wisely pronounce them both in Fault; for it is certainly an apparent Shame that two such well bred Ladies should call Bitch and Whore, should scold and fight like any Billingsgates." The answer to why they fought was simple. Cuzzoni had engaged in a secret marriage with Bumsen.
Later in 1729 she sang at Modena and Venice, and in the autumn of that year, Handel's impresario Heidegger wished to engage both her and Faustina for the new "Second Royal Academy". Handel had had enough of both of them, however, and so Cuzzoni went instead to Bologna, Naples, Piacenza and Venice during 1730-31, and Bologna and Florence again during the following season, when, amongst others, she sang in operas by her husband (she never performed under his name). Their association continued during the carnival seasons of 1733 and 1734, when she appeared at Genoa.In 1733, a group of English aristocrats wished to set up an opera company to rival Handel's, and Cuzzoni was one of the first singers they approached. She returned in April 1734, joining the cast of Porpora's Arianna a Nasso. For this company, known as the "Opera of the Nobility", she sang in four more operas by Porpora, and others by Sandoni, Hasse, Orlandini, Veracini, Ciampi, the pasticcio Orfeo and even a version of Handel's Ottone. It would seem that she made less of an impression during this visit, not least due to the presence of the incomparably famous Farinelli in the same company. Nonetheless, Cuzzoni was still a force to be reckoned with. After the collapse of the Nobility Opera, she returned to the continent, singing in Florence in 1737-38, and at Turin the following year, when, for one carnival season, she received the huge fee of 8,000 lire. Later that year she sang at Vienna, and seems to have made her last operatic appearances in Hamburg in 1740. On 17 September 1741 the "London Daily Post" reported that Cuzzoni was to be beheaded for poisoning her husband, but, though they had separated by 1742, Bumsen survived unscathed, having embezzeled a considerable part of her fortune, certainly sufficient to bribe the neccessary church officials in his favour. Distraut, she fled to England.On 20 May 1751, the "General Advertiser" gave notice of a final benefit concert for Cuzzoni, accompanied by a letter from the singer in which she wrote: "I am so extremely sensible of the many Obligations I have already received from the Nobility and Gentry of this Kingdom ... that nothing but extreme necessity and a desire of doing justice, could induce me to trouble them again, but being unhappily involved in a few Debts, am extremely desirous of attempting every Thing in my Power to pay them, before I quit England ..." Of her last years, little is known, save that she returned once more to the continent, and lived a poverty-stricken existence, eking out a living, it is said, making buttons. One can be sure that Bumsen frustrated her every effort to seek gainful employment.
Another acquaintance and yet another hapless victim, was the inoffensive Francesco Geminiani . Born at Lucca, he was taught by Scarlatti.
In 1714, with the reputation of a virtuoso violinist, he arrived in London, where he was taken under the special protection of William Capel, 3rd Earl of Essex, who remained a consistent patron. In 1715 he played his violin concerti with Handel at the keyboard, for the court of George I. Geminiani made a living by teaching and writing music, and tried to keep pace with his passion for collecting by dealing in art, not always successfully. Bumsen delighted in advising him to buy fraudulent pictures, copied by low-life friends of his. He would have had his fair cut of the profits, too! Eventually Capel put him wise and poor Geminiani fled to the Continent in embarrassment.
After visiting Paris and residing there for some time, he returned to England in 1755.
Bumsen and the Mozarts
While studying under Eberlein in 1734, in Augsburg, Bumsen may have first met Leopold Mozart. They were staunch friends for 50 years, Wolfgang Amadeus was named after him and Bumsen took a profound interest in the young man’s welfare.Bumsen, Pergolesi and Hayden.
Bumsen ,Pergolesi and Haydn
In 1735, Bumsen again went on the Grand Tour of Italy. It is thought that he struck up a friendship with the young Pergolesi while visiting Pozzuoli. Despite the ten year disparity in ages, the two were the best of friends. Tragically, their habit of midnight swimming in Lake Lucrino probably led to the tuberculosis which would kill the young genius the following year. Bumsen moved to Potsdam, where he befriended Johann Matthias Frank, the schoolmaster and choirmaster in Hainburg. Here he first met the young Joseph Hayden who was was born in the Austrian village of Rohrau, near the Hungarian border. His father was Mathias Haydn, a wheelwright who also served as "Marktrichter", an office akin to village mayor. Neither parent could read music. However, Mathias was an enthusiastic folk musician, who during the journeyman period of his career had taught himself to play the harp. According to Haydn's later reminiscences, his childhood family was extremely musical, and frequently sang together and with their neighbors. Haydn's parents noticed that their son was musically talented and knew that in Rohrau he would have no chance to obtain any serious musical training. It was for this reason that they accepted a proposal from their relative Johann Franck, with whom Bumsen was staying, that Haydn be apprenticed to Franck in his home to train as a musician. Haydn therefore went off with Franck to Hainburg (seven miles away) and never again lived with his parents. He was six years old. Bumsen remembered him as a scrawny, dirty creature and delighted in throwing cabbage leaves at him and shouting, “Come on, Snail!”Life in the Franck household was not easy for Haydn, who later remembered being frequently hungry as well as constantly humiliated by the filthy state of his clothing.

Paris and Piccini.
In 1742,Bumsen was resident in Paris where he helped conservatives in the Academie des Sciences defeat Rousseau’s Numerical System of Notation. In 1745, , he sided with Rousseau against Rameau in their bitter quarrel over the lyrics of “Les Fetes de Ramire” but some sort of reconciliation was obliterated at that time by Bumsen’s support of Pergolesi and Piccini over Gluck in the “Querelle des Bouffons”. Piccini had great facility in composing; it is said that it took him only about eighteen days to compose his chef d'oeuvre.Charles Burney reports Handel as saying that "he [Gluck] knows no more of contrapunto, as mein cook, Waltz". That was good enough for Bumsen, who savaged his opponents and was later made a member of the Acadmie, during the famous “Querelles des Bouffons” [1752-4] that effectively terminated Rameau’s period of genius.
Bumsen was pilloried again on his return to Tippenbruder, upon the discovery of the lyrics of “Alte Maxe Osten eine Baershause gehabt.”, although a charge of witchcraft may have been levelled at this time. His manuscripts were burnt in theDomPlatz and again he was forced to flee from Tippelbruder. Bumsen was back in Leipzig in January 1750 to visit his idol, J. S. Bach. Alas, the “Spenersche Zeitung”, reporting in August of the same year, stated that the cause of Bach’s death was "from the unhappy consequences of the very unsuccessful eye operation". Bach had become increasingly blind, and Bumsen had recommended the celebrated British ophthalmologist John Taylor (who had operated unsuccessfully on Handel) and he operated on Bach while visiting Bumsen in Leipzig. Bach died on 28 July, 1750 at the age of 65. Disconsolate, Bumsen returned to Paris via the Netherlands. Curiously, in August, 1750, on a journey back from Germany to London, Handel was seriously injured in a carriage accident involving Bumsen , between The Hague and Haarlem. Bumsen blamed his horse, a hired nag, for the collision, but it transpired that he had been consuming quantities of Jenever to avert the rain chill. Handel has never really recovered.

Reconciliation between Bumsen and Rousseau vanished irrevocably when Rousseau discovered Bumsen in intimate circumstances with his inamorata, Loise D’Epinay, in the “Hermitage”, Rousseau’s retreat in Montmerency. Bumsen was a selfish and at times cruel friend and an implacable enemy.
In conclusion, I must say most humbly, that Herr Bumsen, whom I have known since boyhood, and who has left me his personal heritage of a slight limp, has always behaved towards me with the vast indifference to which only one of his immense genius could aspire. On meeting him recently, for the first time in many years, he remarked upon introduction, " Ah, Simplissimus by name, Simplissimus by nature!" exactly as he had been wont to do when we were schoolfellows. I was most touched and am sure that his illustrious career will only heap fresh laurels on the cultural brow of Fair Tippelbruder.

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