Johann Nikolaus Forkel

Johann Nikolaus Forkel ( born February 22, 1749 Meeder at Coburg, † March 20, 1818 in Göttingen ) was a German organist and musicologist. He is considered one of the founders of the ( historical ) musicology.


Forkel was the son of a shoemaker, who was also a tax collector box and master. His teacher in Meeder was the schoolmaster and organist Johann Heinrich Schulthesius, an uncle of Johann Paul Schulthesius. At 17 he went to Lüneburg, where he was admitted in the school choir of Johanneums. Already in 1767 he took over the post of Prefect on Schwerin Schwerin Cathedral Choir, perfected in organ playing and immersed himself in the writings of Johann Mattheson. In 1769 he became a stud. jur. enrolled at the University of Göttingen and after very well unusual specimen of his skill organist of the university church. In 1772, he started giving private lectures on music and 1779 university music director. An application for the succession of Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach in Hamburg in 1789 was unsuccessful. Forkel remained, with interruptions by a six-month study trip that took him in 1801 in all major libraries to Vienna until his death in Göttingen.

Forkel was an enthusiastic admirer of Johann Sebastian Bach and raised in his later years, his music more and more the dogmatic standard. He wrote in 1802 the first Bach Biography and received direct information from the correspondence with his sons Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach and Wilhelm Friedemann Bach. This document, entitled About Johann Sebastian Bach's life, art and works of art, the first musicological monograph ever and Bach in particular. It contains after the initial, very personal description of Bach's life circumstances, mainly reflections on Bach's piano and organ, about the structure of his joints and his work as a teacher. However, his sacred vocal works appear only in passing, in the catalog of the St. Matthew Passion is casually mentioned as "a zweychörige Passion".

In 1781 he married the 16- year-old daughter Margaretha (meta ) of the Göttingen theologian Professor Rudolph Wedekind. The marriage of the son emerged (Carl Gottlieb Forkel, * 1782 ), divorced in 1793. " Madame Forkel ," as it was called in the letters of the Romantics, worked as writer and translator. She married a second time, the later Court of Appeal Director Johann Heinrich Liebeskind. Her brother was the physician Georg Freiherr von Wedekind.

One year after Forkel's death in 1818 appeared in the printed catalog of his Gottingen library, written by his son Carl Gottlieb Forkel. The book lists 2305 books music books and 1592 volumes of printed music and was valuable for Bach research due to the indication verschollerner Bach works. Forkel's library is now part of the Royal Library in Berlin and the Institute of Sacred Music at the University of Arts in Berlin.

Forkel has left numerous compositions. Noteworthy are his Variations for Piano on the British national anthem "God Save the King". .

Works (selection)

  • About the theory of music. Göttingen, 1777
  • Musically - critical library. 3 volumes, Gotha, 1778/79, excerpts on
  • Musical Almanac for Germany for the year ... 1782
  • 1783
  • 1784
  • 1789