Forkel, Johann Nikolaus


German writer and theorist, and also a skilful organist and harpist, who was born near Coburg and pursued his musical studies at Gottingen University. He was organist at the University church and later a doctor of philosophy and director of music there for many years, having been appointed to the post in 1778. While acting in that capacity, from 1779 to 1815, he conducted the weekly concerts of the Akademie. Forkel's theoretical works are of great value and his knowledge of musical literature was extensive. He was likewise an excellent pianist of the school of Bach, and composed numerous pieces of vocal and instrumental music. His transcriptions in modern notation of a number of ancient masterpieces, including masses of Okeghem, Josquin de Pres and others, were engraved and a proof taken, but the French invaders melted down the plates for cannon balls in 1806. The corrected proof sheets are now in the Berlin Library, and that institution likewise contains in manuscript Forkel's oratorio, Hiskias; two cantatas; symphonies; choruses; clavier concertos and variations for the harpsichord. Forkel wrote a work on the History of the Literature of Music, which is highly valuable to the student of music. It was published at Leipsic in 1792 and contains a valuable bibliography of musical writings up to about the end of the Seventeenth Century. He also wrote the first life of Bach, with a critical view of his compositions. This was published in 1820. Forkel's General History of Music in two volumes, published at Leipsic, 1788-1801, is his most celebrated work and contains a history of ancient as well as modern music. He wrote also a history of Italian Opera, with notes, which was published at Leipsic in 1789.