Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Bartleman, James

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BARTLEMAN, JAMES (1769–1821), vocalist, born 19 Sept. 1769, was educated under Dr. Cooke, of Westminster, and became a chorister in the abbey. He distinguished himself even as a boy singer, and by his gentle, amiable disposition, became a great favourite not only with his master, but also with Sir John Hawkins, whose daughter, in her 'Anecdotes,' mentions him frequently, and always with the highest admiration, not only of his talents, but of his character. He made his first appearance as a bass singer in 1788 at the Ancient Concerts, and he kept up his connection with that institution, with only one break, until he was compelled by ill-health to resign. During the seasons 1791–1795, he quitted the Ancient Concerts for the newly established vocal concerts, where he held the post of leading bass. Though he is usually called a bass singer, his voice seems to have had rather the character of a baritone, for a contemporary critic (London Magazine for 1820) speaks of its being incomparably more agreeable and effective than a bass, and also compares it to the violoncello. His compass was of unusual extent, from E below the bass stave to G above it. The same critic tells us that his intonation was wonderfully true, and that his richness and equality of tone resulted in part from his peculiarities of pronunciation; as instances of which, the words ‘die’ and ‘smile’ are given as ‘doy’ and ‘smawele.’ He had the good sense to perceive the wonderful beauties of Purcell's solos, and in one season he revived nearly all those bass songs which are now the best known specimens of the composer's work. Drs. Callcott and Crotch wrote songs especially for him. He was a beautiful copyist of music, as is shown by a copy of Marenzio's madrigals made by him, which is now in the British Museum. In the ‘London Magazine’ of April 1821, we read that he is too ill to sing, but hopes are held out of his recovery from the disease to which he had long been subject. But on 15 April he died; he was buried in the cloisters of Westminster Abbey.

[Harmonicon for 1830; Miss Hawkins's Anecdotes (1822); London Magazine, December 1820, April 1821; Parkes's Musical Memories, i. 249; and Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians.]

J. A. F. M.