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

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MAINZER, JOSEPH (1801–1851), teacher of music, born at Trèves 21 Oct. 1801, was educated in the maîtrise of Trèves Cathedral, and learned to play several instruments. He was employed subsequently in the Saarbrück coal mines with the view of becoming an engineer, and at length was ordained priest in 1826, afterwards being made an abbé. He was appointed singing-master to the college at Trèves, for which he wrote a ‘Singschule: oder Praktische Anweisung zum Gesange,’ Trèves, 1831. He had to leave Germany on account of his political opinions, and in 1833 he went to Brussels, where he wrote an opera, and acted as musical editor of ‘L'Artiste.’ Proceeding to Paris he taught popular singing classes and contributed musical articles to various journals. He came to England in 1839, and in 1841 competed unsuccessfully for the music chair in Edinburgh University. He was in Edinburgh till about 1848, when he left for Manchester. There he died 10 Nov. 1851. His best-known work was ‘Singing for the Million,’ London, 1841, which passed through many editions, and the title of which was taken by Hood as the subject of a humorous poem. The system upon which this publication was founded—that of the French method of sol-faing by absolute pitch—has long since been superseded, but Mainzer himself had considerable success with it. His other works include: 1. ‘Treatise on Musical Grammar and the Principles of Harmony,’ London, 1843. 2. ‘The Gaelic Psalm Tunes of Ross-shire and the Neighbouring Counties,’ Edinburgh, 1844, mostly noted down from the singing of the old precentors. 3. ‘The Standard Psalmody of Scotland,’ Edinburgh, 1845, in which he endeavours to recall attention to the old tunes in Knox's ‘Psalter.’ 4. ‘Music and Education,’ London, 1848. A periodical started by him under the title of ‘Mainzer's Musical Times’ was the basis of the present ‘Musical Times.’ His musical compositions, if we except a long-metre hymn-tune bearing his name but not definitely ascertained to be by him, are now forgotten; but his ‘choruses,’ simple yet effective, show that he understood how to wield large masses of voice.

[A short sketch of his life (25 pp.), translated from the French of Aristide Guilbert, was published in 1844; see also Novello's Short History of Cheap Music, pp. 30, 47; Grove's Dictionary of Music, ii. 198; Brown's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, p. 410; Love's Scottish Church Music, Curwen's Teacher's Manual, p. 367.]

J. C. H.