Faà di Bruno, Giovanni Matteo [Horatio, Orazio] 83

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Foresythe, Reginald

(b London, 28 May 1907; d London, 23 Dec 1958). English jazz pianist, composer and bandleader. The son of a West African barrister and a German mother, he was educated in England. During the late 1920s he travelled to the USA, where he wrote arrangements for Earl Hines’s orchestra and was commissioned by Paul Whiteman to compose new works. In 1933 he returned to Britain and formed a band made up of two clarinets, bassoon, three saxophones, piano, double bass and drums – an unconventional instrumentation for jazz and dance music at that time. For this and later ensembles he wrote many short pieces, including Serenade for a Wealthy Widow/Angry Jungle (1933, Col.), The Autocrat before Breakfast (1934, Col.), Dodging a Divorcee (1935, Col.) and Swing for Roundabout (1936, Decca). In 1934 Foresythe returned to the USA to perform with Whiteman, and the following year he recorded in New York with a band that included Benny Goodman, John Kirby and Gene Krupa; apart from this occasion, however, he made little use of improvisation. After World War II he led another band, but his final years were spent in obscurity, playing the piano in small drinking clubs in London around Soho and Kensington.

Foresythe’s witty shorter compositions created a permanent impact on his pre-war jazz contemporaries and foreshadowed by a couple of decades the use that American jazz arrangers were to make of woodwind and classical counterpoint; he also wrote longer works, such as Southern Holiday: a Phantasy of Negro Moods (1935, Col.).


‘Reginald Foresythe Tells You All About it’, Topical Times (27 Jan 1934)

‘Jazz Profile: Reginald Foresythe’, Musical News and Dance Band, ii/20 (1937), 26–7

A. McCarthy: ‘Reginald Foresythe Discography’, Jazz Monthly, no.187 (1970), 26–7


Forkel, Johann Nicolaus

(b Meeder, nr Coburg, 22 Feb 1749; d 20 March 1818). German music historian, theorist and bibliographer. He is generally regarded as one of the founders of modern musicology.

1. Life.

Forkel was the son of a cobbler, box maker and tax collector. He received early keyboard training from the local Kantor, Johann Heinrich Schulthesius; in matters of music theory he appears to have been largely self-taught, using printed treatises by Mattheson, J.A. Scheibe, Christoph Nichelmann and others as his guide. In 1766, at the age of 17, he left home for Lüneburg, where he served as a chorister at the Johannisschule (J.S. Bach had studied at the Michaelisschule, the town’s other choir school). The following year Forkel moved to Schwerin, where he worked as a prefect, or assistant conductor, in the cathedral choir. There his skills were noticed by Duke Frederick ‘der Fromme’, who awarded him a stipend for two years of study at the University of Göttingen.

Forkel matriculated at the university in April 1769 and attended lectures in law, mathematics and ancient and modern philosophy. In 1770 he was appointed university organist, and from then until the end of his life he remained at the university, holding one academic music position or another. From winter 1772 he also gave private instruction, apparently until 1779, when he was appointed academic concertmaster and, soon thereafter, university music director. As music director, Forkel presented an annual concert series, typically consisting of 20 performances given between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Sundays from Michaelmas to Easter. He supplemented these with lectures, often publishing related material in advance to stimulate interest (e.g. Genauere Bestimmung einiger musikalischen Begriffe zur Ankündigung des akademischen Winter-Concerts von 1780–1781, Göttingen, 1780; repr. in Magazin der Musik, ed. C.F. Cramer, i, Hamburg, 1783/R). The concerts continued until 1815; the lectures, until Forkel’s death.

In 1781 Forkel married Margareta Sophia Dorothea Wedekind, the 16-year-old daughter of a Göttingen theologian. The union, which produced one son, ended in divorce in 1793. For his work as music historian and theorist, Forkel was awarded a doctorate ‘without examination and without fees’ by the university in 1787 and given the title magister. The first volume of his ambitious Allgemeine Geschichte der Musik appeared the next year, when Forkel also applied, unsuccessfully, for the prestigious position of ‘Director Musices und Cantor am Johanneum’ in Hamburg that had been vacated by the death of his friend C.P.E. Bach; the post went to C.F.G. Schwencke. In 1792 Forkel issued his ground-breaking music bibliography, the Allgemeine Litteratur der Musik. He travelled in 1801 to Leipzig, Prague and Vienna to gather additional material for the Allgemeine Geschichte, the second volume of which appeared that year. Around this time Forkel also began to work with the Viennese archivist and librettist Joseph Sonnleithner on the Denkmale der musikalischen Kunst, a multi-volume historical anthology of music. He sent off the manuscript to volume i in March 1803, and the music was subsequently engraved and proofed, but before it could be printed, the plates were melted down by French soldiers during the occupation of Vienna in 1806, and Forkel, disheartened, abandoned the project.

In 1801 Forkel began to serve as adviser for Oeuvres complettes de Jean Sebastien Bach, Hoffmeister & Kühnel’s emerging series of Bach’s keyboard music. This work led to the firm’s publication, in 1802, of his important biography, Ueber Johann Sebastian Bachs Leben, Kunst und Kunstwerke, which was based on material that he had assembled for the third and last volume of the Allgemeine Geschichte. Despite the fact that Forkel continued to write and lecture for 16 more years, he did not return to the Allgemeine Geschichte, and it remained unfinished at the time of his death (five notebooks of material, Miscellanea musica, survive in D-Bsb).

2. Works.

The Allgemeine Geschichte, the magnum opus of Forkel’s historical studies, was the first German attempt at a comprehensive history of music. Volumes i and ii cover the period from antiquity to the end of the 16th century; volume iii, never completed, would have carried the account to Forkel’s time. Its encompassing approach links it with the earlier histories of Hawkins and Burney, but the incorporation of late-18th-century theories on aesthetics, philosophy and sociology (Forkel was extremely well read and had a personal library of over 2500 books) gives it a distinctive, metaphysical slant. Forkel cast his survey within the framework of universal history then being taught at the University of Göttingen by Johann Christoph Gatterer (1727–99) and August Ludwig Schlözer (1735–1809), according to which history was viewed as a succession not of facts, but of ideas, and as the movement of mankind from natural wildness to a cultivated state of perfection. This perfection was to be achieved through constant progress and improvement (much like the growth of a person from infancy to adulthood) and the development of ethics and sublime mental capabilities. Universal history thus paralleled many aspects of Enlightenment philosophy. Forkel presented the history of music as a gradual evolution from simple to complex, ascribing a decisive role to the appearance of harmony, which enabled composers, in time, to liberate music from its reliance on words and to write instrumental music (which was sublime because it conveyed feeling in its purest guise). Music history thus gained a developmental and psychological dimension. In Forkel’s opinion, fugue was the richest instrumental procedure, since its polyphonic combination of leading and imitative parts seemed to reflect the harmonious union of individuals from different levels of society working towards common goals: ‘The general feeling of mankind itself pronounces the fugue as the highest and most dignified masterpiece of art that is worthy to be brought before posterity’. Perhaps for this reason Forkel departed from the Enlightenment idea of uninterrupted progress and held up Bach’s music, with its fugal counterpoint, as the model for late-18th-century composers.

Forkel’s approach to music theory, seen most clearly in Ueber die Theorie and the lengthy preface to volume i of the Allgemeine Geschichte, was to stress that music was a profound expression of human feeling rather than – as Rousseau and Burney believed – a superficial stimulation of the senses. He allied music not with mathematics, but with language: just as syllables gave rise to words and words to comprehensible paragraphs, so notes gave rise to melodies, and melodies to comprehensible forms. In this development, harmony, again, played the decisive role, placing music ‘in the position of becoming a complete, rich, and diverse language of feelings, just as the most developed language of ideas had become for reason’. To Forkel, both melody and harmony were critical, but the feeling generated by the two was the most important element of all. For instance, in a published analysis of C.P.E. Bach’s Sonata in F minor, h173 (w57.6) (discussed at length in Powers), Forkel judges the piece in terms of the emotions produced by its themes and movements and the composer’s ability to balance and contrast those emotions. By promoting this subjective analytical approach at the University of Göttingen, Forkel was able to shift music from a science to a fine art, allied with language, philosophy, history and literature.

Forkel’s remarkable Allgemeine Litteratur set the standard for later bibliographies in terms of thoroughness and organization. It contains some 3000 entries, from antiquity to the late 18th century, with well-ordered comments on the content and quality of each source. After Forkel’s death the volume was expanded and translated into Italian by Peter Lichtenthal as part of his Dizionario e bibliografia della musica (vols.iii and iv; Milan, 1826), and it was updated and enlarged by the Leipzig organist and manuscript collector Carl Ferdinand Becker as Systematisch-chronologische Darstellung der musikalischen Literatur (Leipzig, 1836/R). In his original preface Forkel announced a comprehensive bibliography of music scores, but he never carried out the plan.

Ueber Johann Sebastian Bachs Leben, Kunst und Kunstwerke, Forkel’s seminal biography, marked the formal beginning of the Bach revival, and it remains a primary source. Based on information received directly from Bach’s two eldest sons, Wilhelm Friedemann and Carl Philipp Emanuel, it contains many facts that would otherwise have been lost (such as the origin of the Goldberg Variations). Forkel focusses mainly on Bach’s keyboard works and his accomplishments as a keyboard player, composer and teacher, portraying him as a German cultural hero (‘Be proud of him, O Fatherland; be proud, but at the same time, be worthy of him!’) whose preludes and fugues, trio sonatas and other masterpieces eclipsed the music of Forkel’s day. He also claimed, incorrectly, that Bach had simplified and shortened his compositions, stripping them of ‘useless diminutions and embellishments’. While Forkel was mistaken in his attempt to align Bach with the Enlightenment cause, his biography remains a primary source in Bach scholarship.

Forkel’s own compositions were judged ‘dry’ in his own time and are largely forgotten today. In Göttingen he published two sets of sonatas for keyboard (1778, 1779), a set of sonatas for keyboard, violin and cello (1783), and keyboard variations on God Save the King (1791). Other pieces were published in Augsburg and London; manuscripts of additional vocal, instrumental and keyboard works (especially keyboard concertos) survive, mainly in Berlin (D-Bsb).

Forkel was not the first to lecture on music at a university (C.G. Schröter, L.C. Mizler von Kolof and others did so before him), nor the first to write an extensive musical biography (John Mainwaring wrote his famous book on Handel some four decades earlier). Nevertheless, his activities at the University of Göttingen and his published writings helped to establish the discipline of musicology as we know it today.


Ueber die Theorie der Musik, insofern sie Liebhabern und Kennern nothwendig und nützlich ist (Göttingen, 1777); repr. in Magazin der Musik, ed. C.F. Cramer, i (Hamburg, 1783/R), 855–912

Musikalisch-kritische Bibliothek (Gotha, 1778–9/R) [incl. ‘Abhandlung der Schönen’, i (1778), 3–52, trans. of J.P. de Crousaz: Traité de beau, Amsterdam, 1715]

Musikalischer Almanach für Deutschland (Leipzig, 1781–8/R)

Allgemeine Geschichte der Musik (Leipzig, 1788–1801/R)

Geschichte der italiänischen Oper von ihrem ersten Ursprung an bis auf gegenwärtige Zeiten (Leipzig, 1789/R) [trans. of S. Arteaga: Le rivoluzioni del teatro musicale italiano, Bologna, 1783–8/R]

Allgemeine Litteratur der Musik, oder Anleitung zur Kenntnis musikalischer Bücher, welche von den ältesten bis auf die neuesten Zeiten bey den Griechen, Römern und den meisten neuern europäischen Nationen sind geschrieben worden (Leipzig, 1792/R)

Ueber Johann Sebastian Bachs Leben, Kunst und Kunstwerke (Leipzig, 1802/R; Eng. trans., 1820 and 1920/R; Fr. trans., 1876)





Grove6 (V. Duckles) [incl. further bibliography]

MGG1 (F. Peters-Marquardt, A. Dürr)


J.L. Cr.: ‘Johann Nicolaus Forkel’, Zeitgenossen, iv/1 (1819), 123–36

Verzeichniss der von dem verstorbenen Doctor und Musikdirector Forkel in Göttingen nachgelassenen Bücher und Musikalien (Göttingen, 1819)

G. Kinsky: ‘Aus Forkels Briefen an Hoffmeister und Kühnel: ein Beitrag zur Frühgeschichte der Bach-Pflege’, JbMP 1932, 55–68

H. Edelhoff: Johann Nikolaus Forkel: ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Musikwissenschaft (Göttingen, 1935)

H.J. Moser: Das musikalische Denkmälerwesen in Deutschland (Kassel, 1952)

T. Kneif: ‘Forkel und die Geschichtsphilosophie des ausgehenden 18. Jahrhunderts’, Mf, xvi (1963), 224–37

V. Duckles: ‘Johann Nicolaus Forkel: the Beginnings of Music Historiography’, Eighteenth-Century Studies, i (1967–8), 277–90

E.R. Jacobi: ‘C.F. Zelters kritische Beleuchtung von J.N. Forkels Buch über J.S. Bach, aufgrund neu aufgefundener Manuskripte’, IMSCR XI: Copenhagen 1972, 462–6

W. Arlt: ‘Natur und Geschichte der Musik in der Anschauung des 18. Jahrhunderts: J.J. Rousseau und J.N. Forkel’, Melos/NZM, ii (1976), 351–6

E. Suchalla, ed.: Briefe von Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach an Johann Gottlob Immanuel Breitkopf und Johann Nikolaus Forkel (Tutzing, 1985)

G. Stauffer: ‘Forkel’s Letters to Hoffmeister & Kühnel: a Bach Biographical Source Recovered’, JM, v (1987), 549–61

G. Stauffer, ed.: The Forkel–Hoffmeister & Kühnel Correspondence: a Document of the Early 19th-Century Bach Revival (New York, 1990)

H.-J. Schulze: ‘Karl Friedrich Zelter und der Nachlass des Bach-Biographen Johann Nikolaus Forkel’, JbSIM, i (1993), 141–50

D. Raffman: Language, Music, and Mind (Cambridge, MA, 1993)

D. Powers: Johann Nikolaus Forkel’s Philosophy of Music in the ‘Einleitung’ to Volume One of his ‘Allgemeine Geschichte der Musik’ (1788): a Translation and Commentary (diss., U. of North Carolina, 1995)


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