Benedictus Buns, Benedictus à sancto Josepho, born Buns, also named Buns Gelriensis, was born in 1642 in Geldern (near Kevelaer), which is now a part of Germany and died in Boxmeer, the Netherlands, 6 December 1716. Buns was a priest and composer.
Between 1666 and 1671 - it is assumed in 1670 - Buns moved to the Monastery of the Carmelites in Boxmeer. He was appointed sub-prior in the periods, 1671-1674; 1677-1683; 1692-1701; 1704-1707. Buns travelled to Mechelen, Antwerp and Brussels to attend Carmelite chapter-meetings. From 1679 until his death he held the position of functionary (titularus) organist in Boxmeer at the Bremser organ, built by Blasius Bremser out of Mechelen. As organist, Buns was the successor of Hubertus à Sancto Joanne Vlaminck (1633-1679) a well known organist in Boxmeer (from 1668-1679), which - including the monastery - was part of a independent Catholic enclave not belonging to the Duchy of Brabant and the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands at that time.
From 1699 Buns considered himself as private composer, conductor and organist ("Aulae Bergis phonascus et organista") - to the Count Oswaldo van den Bergh at Boxmeer and the family van den Bergh at 's-Heerenbergh. Another facet of Benedictus Buns was as an organ-expert and an organ-advisor. In 1688, Buns initiated the completion and expansion (under-Positive) of the Bremser organ in Boxmeer by Jan van Dijck. In 1703 Buns approved the Ruprecht (III) organ which was built in the chapel of the nunnery of the Carmelites Elsendael in Boxmeer. He also acted as advisor, in 1706, for the new organ in the monastery in Geldern.
In the necrology of the Carmelite monastery in Boxmeer is recorded: "6. December obiit P. Benedictus à Sancto Josepho alias Buns, Gelriensis, quondam subprior, organista ac Musiciae componista famosissimus."
In France, Buns was granted with a title of honour ”le grand Carme”. The Dutch musicologist Frits Noske has done a remarkable job to make accessible the total oeuvre by Buns. In 1967, a first Benedictus Buns Memorial was held in Boxmeer initiated by conductor Theo Lamée and Carmelite monk Paulus Schmitt. In 1968 a simple marble was unveiled in the hall of the monastery in Boxmeer in remembering and honouring the Carmelite Benedictus Buns. In 2001 a second Benedictus Buns Memorial in Boxmeer was initiated and executed by conductor Hans Smout in the castle and in the basilica at Boxmeer.
From Buns we know nine opus numbers I up to IX, published between 1666 and 1721. Books were published by Petrus Phalesius, Antwerp, opus I–III; by Lucas de Potter, Antwerp, opus IV and V; by Arnold van Eynden, Utrecht opus VI; by Hendrik Aertssens, Antwerp, opus VII; by Estienne Roger, Amsterdam, opus VIII-IX. The two editions of Gregorian chant and his opus I-VII and IX contains a great part of liturgical music. His opus VIII contains only instrumental music. From the nine Opus-numbers, seven have been come across in full.
Even after his death (1716) opus numbers were published. Those opus numbers I up to IX published during his life consist out of 123 surviving compositions, among others 109 religion vocal compositions with instruments. We know for instance 11 Masses, 2 Requiem motets, 2 Magnificat, 5 Lauretanic Litany, Litany of the blessed Virgin, 8 Tantum Ergo,11 Salve Regina, 4 Regina Coeli, 1 Te Deum, Some Ave Maria, 2 Missa pro defunctis, 1 Ave regina coelorum, 1 Alma Redemptoris Mater, 11 little Oratorio with free religion text and compositions for Beata Maria Virgine, Sancto Josepho, Sancto vel sancto, Sanctissimo Sacramento and many other religion occasions. Buns’ work reflects of course his activities in the service of his order.
Furthermore, Buns composed 13 Trio sonatas for 2 Violins, Viola da Gamba and Basso Continuo (Bass viola and organ) which were published in 1698 in his opus VIII with the title: "Orpheus Elianus è Carmelo in Orbem Editus a 2 Viol. et Basso viola cum Basso Continuo". These compositions were dedicated to Count Oswald van den Bergh Boxmeer and his wife Maria Leopoldina van Oost-Friesland-Rittburg. Opus V and Opus VII by Buns were also dedicated to Count Oswald van den Bergh.
The 14th instrumental sonata is sonata finalis No. 15 opus V. This Sonata finalis has two instrumental choirs with basso continuo and is representative of the modern concerto principle of the time. It is possible that Buns composed another 14th sonata, because other instrumental works has been lost too. His last opus IX was published in 1701.
From 1701 Buns studied and practised the Gregorian Chorals and Chants. In 1711 (Plantin Antwerp) and after his death in 1721 (Ludovicus de Quantinne Brussels ) two volumes from his hands were published in Antwerp and Brussels. Those two volumes consist out of Gregorian songs for the liturgical practice of course specially collected by Buns for the monastery of Fratrum Beata Virginae Mariae Monte Carmelo Boxmeriensis, first the "Processionale juxta usum Fratrum Beatae Virginae Mariae de Monte Carmelo" and second "Manuale Chori ad usum Fratrum Beatae Virginae Mariae de Monte Carmelo". These two books showing theoretically and musically amendments by Buns. Much of his compositions (voice-books) no scores are available were laid-down and found in libraries of Amsterdam, Utrecht (city), Brussels, Antwerp, Geldern, Boxmeer, Paris, Zürich, Vienna, Uppsala.
For Buns style is characteristic the structure from proportionally short pieces, with changing beat and speed bars. The motets on Latin texts are of a meditative nature. Further a homophone setting kind of the Primus in the upper voice, as well as larding also instrumental components in prelude and interlude plays under the designation: Symphonia, Sonata, Ritornello. However he wrote brilliant concertando masses, for instance Missa Secunda opus I for 6 vocibus, 4 vocibus in repiëno et instrumenti.
Buns uses text in the motets of literal excerpts from the Holy Scriptures, partly too of paraphrases of the Scriptures and own additions in meditative style. The new created texts by poets in the 17th century are even real inspiration for Buns’ motets. Even literal quotations from the Scriptures texts are treated by Benedictus Buns in an oratical way. The instrumental part is in the first phase according to conservative habit written in three or five part, only rarely four part after more modern view. The used and chosen instrumentation by Buns consists out of, violins, alto and tenor violins, viola, viola di Gamba, bass Viola, violoncello, bassoon, Basso continuo, usually organ with bass-violins, sometimes with trombones. But to the contrary in sonata finalis nr. 15 opus V Buns composed for two instrumental choirs with basso continuo. This composition is a representative of the modern concerto principle used by Buns. The 13 sonatas out of opus VIII are written in outstanding virtuoso Baroque idiom, with some southern tint. This opus VIII - Orpheus Elianus e Carmelo in orbem editus - is a splendid example of truly inspired excellent Dutch music. Of course Orpheus Elianus refers to the Prophet Elijah, so he did in his opus VII, Elijah the spiritual inspiration for the founders and members of the order of Carmelites to which Buns belonged. These 13 trio sonatas opus VIII have clearly affinity with the sonata da Chiesa by Corelli. They exist from short, in each other overflowing particles, often in five parts Adagio – Allegro – Adagio – Allegro – Adagio. In the same slightly one possibly the sonata finalis nr. 15 opus V for two violin choirs has to be considered as an excellent instrumental motet. Extremely surprisingly and ingenious is the alternating play between chorus I (violin 1 and 2, viola and viola di gamba) and chorus II (violin 1 and 2, viola, tenor-violin and dulciano/fagotto) having been supported by the continuo (organ, clavichord and double-bass). The opus VIII as a whole considered exhibits a logical tonal system. The first six sonatas follow the circle of fifths in the minor keys, starting from c through g, d, a, and e to b. Sonata no.7 starts in f-sharp minor but modulates to E-flat major. The last six sonatas nr. 8 up to13 continue through the circle of fifths, but now in the major keys, from E-flat, through B-flat, F, C, G and to D. The chosen harmonic structure is interesting and lends this opus VIII a tough architecture.
Buns is strongly be influenced by Italian composers from his time, like for instance Bassani and Degli Antonii. It could be Buns have had some contacts with musicians of the Italian Carmelites. Unfortunately is unknown who was the music-teacher of Buns in Geldern. In the Carmelite monastery of Geldern were at that time two organs placed in the monastery-church. The Carmelites at that time had a high skill of the art of music. Perhaps a chapel-master out of Cologne? Because there exist proven contacts between the family/Count van den Bergh ‘s-Heerenbergh and chapel-masters of Cologne like Carl Rosier (1640-1725) and even the Flemish Carolus Hacquart (c.1640-1671). It’s likely they worked in ‘s-Heerbergh. Buns’ music is based on the principles and style of the Venetian School at the beginning of the 17th century and Buns’ oeuvre has some similarity to Monteverdi and even comparison to Charpentier and Corelli can de added. Although Benedictus Buns wrote almost exclusively religious music he has considered as the most important Dutch composers in the second half of the 17th century.
Benedictus Buns lived and worked when the barony of Boxmeer which was in south-eastern part of the Netherlands near to the German Rhineland (more specifically the Nieder-Rhein area) that was divided into numerous small territories falling under various jurisdictions with exception of the Calvinistic Republic , known as “Vrije heerlijkheid” (literally "free manor") an autonomous area in the Calvinistic Republic of the Seven United Netherlands. Boxmeer had nothing to fear of the reformation taking place at that time in the Netherlands.
After the peace of Munster in 1648 Catholics in Brabant had been forced to cede their churches to the new religion, but not in the free enclave of Boxmeer, where the Catholic religion could be confessed freely but also art-industrious-driven has assumed important proportions in Boxmeer.
The family of earls Van den Bergh from 's-Heerenberg stimulated the cultural flowering-age in Boxmeer. Moreover some prosperous families, such as Van Odenhoven, De Raet and Hengst, had build country-seats in Boxmeer such as Leucker, De Weijer, and Elsendock. They brought together with the earls Van den Bergh employment of administrative nature in Boxmeer.
Boxmeer was part of the Diocese of Roermond, which by 14 August 1653 granted authorisation to founding of the convent in Boxmeer. At the end of 1652 a donation was sealed to the Flemish Carmelites and the Geldern Carmelites by earl Albert van den Bergh which consists of two hectare grounds located beside the existing parish church at Boxmeer.
Boxmeer were considered as a stronghold - even by diocese Roermond - by the marching reformation.
Buns, composing mainly religious music, could flourish in Boxmeer unhindered with the support of the earl Van den Bergh family. Benedictus Buns composed dedicated music for Madeleine the Cusance, the widow of earl Albert and for his son, Oswald Van den Bergh. In spite Buns travelling and his patronage his music was not broadly spread in the Netherlands, although famous music printers recognised his musical qualities and printed his music, with the exception of Buns opus VIII - entirely existing from 13 sonatas - was, however only this Opus published in Amsterdam.
It is probable that because of the Calvinists, Buns music was not widely appreciated.
Buns did not remain in the Carmelite convent and was a much-travelled man. The Carmelites backed the Reform of Touraine in 1604 and were strongly in favour of integration of art and education in the convent. A Latin school in Boxmeer opened in 1658 answered guarantor for "artes liberales usque ad rhetoricam" (Liberal Arts and rhetoric), which formed a counter-balance against the reform colleges in the Republic.
The earls Van den Bergh considered this Latin school as a scientific centre and a cultural stronghold. But also the Carmelites had to adhere to the "jurisdictiones, praeeminentias et immunitates" (jurisdiction, primacy and immunity) of the earls Van den Bergh and those stood sometimes on the side of the House of Orange.
Published Compositions Voice-books and Gregorian Chants