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Johann Nikolaus Forkel

Johann Nikolaus Forkel (February 22, 1749 - 1818), German musician and musical historian, was born at Meeder in Coburg.

He was the son of a cobbler, and as a practical musician, especially as a pianoforte player, achieved some eminence; but his claims to a more abiding name rest chiefly upon his literary skill and deep research as an historian of musical science and literature,

He was an enthusiastic admirer of Johann Sebastian Bach, whose music he did much to popularize. He also wrote the first biography of Bach (in 1802), one which is of particular value today, as he was was able to correspond directly with Bach's sons Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach and Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, and thereby obtained much valuable information that would otherwise have been lost.

His library, which was accumulated with care and discrimination at a time when rare books were cheap, forms a valuable portion of the royal library in Berlin and also of the library of the Königliche Institut für Kirchenmusik [where are those books now?].

He was organist to the university church of Göttingen, obtained the degree of doctor of philosophy, and in 1778 became musical director of the university. He died at Göttingen on the 20th of March 1818.

The following is a list of his other principal works:

The last is his other most important work. He also wrote a Dictionary of Musical Literature, which is full of valuable material.

To his musical compositions, which are numerous, little interest is to-day to be attached. But it is worth noting that he wrote variations on the English national anthem "God Save the King" for the clavichord, and that Abt Vogler wrote a sharp criticism on them, which appeared at Frankfurt in 1793 together with a set of variations as he conceived they ought to be written.

This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.