Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Maas, Joseph

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MAAS, JOSEPH (1847–1886), vocalist, descended from an old Dutch family, was born at Dartford, Kent, on 30 Jan. 1847. His voice was a fine treble. At the age of ten he became a chorister at Rochester Cathedral, and was soloist there for five years. Leaving the cathedral he became a clerk in Chatham Dockyard, but continued his musical studies. In 1869 he went to Milan, where he studied singing for two years under San Giovanni. In February 1871 he appeared for Mr. Sims Reeves at St. James's Hall with great success, and on 29 Aug. 1872 made his début on the stage at Covent Garden as Prince Babil in Boucicault's ‘Babil and Bijou.’ Soon after he joined the Kellogg English opera company in America, where he was well received. Returning to England in 1877, he became a member of the Carl Rosa company, with which he was connected as principal tenor for three years, and was next engaged by Mr. Mapleson for Her Majesty's Opera. In 1883 he appeared in Wagner's ‘Lohengrin,’ and that exacting music, it was generally admitted, had never been sung before with such admirable style and method. He appeared in Paris in 1884, and in Brussels at the Bach and Handel festival of 1885. In May 1885 he ‘created’ the part of the Chevalier des Grieux in Massenet's ‘Manon’ at Drury Lane. He was an indifferent actor, but he had a deliciously pure tenor voice, of considerable power and compass, which he managed with ease and feeling. In Handel's oratorios and in English ballads he was almost without a rival. In this capacity he was often engaged in London and the provinces, his last important appearance being at the Birmingham festival of 1885. He died in London of rheumatic fever on 16 Jan. 1886, and was buried at Child's Hill cemetery, Hampstead, where his grave is marked by a monument erected by friends and admirers to the memory of a great singer and good man’ (inscription). He was married to a daughter of Mr. J. H. Ball, J.P., of Stroud, by whom he had one daughter.

[Musical Times, February 1886, p. 93; Athenæum, 23 Jan. 1886; Musical Standard, 23 Jan. 1886; Grove's Dictionary of Music, iv. 706; personal recollections.]

J. C. H.