A great admirer of Richard Wagner, the music publisher Emil Heckel (1831–1908) founded the first Wagner Society in Mannheim in 1871. His purpose was to inspire others to help raise the necessary funds for the inaugural Bayreuth Festival. William Ashton Ellis (1852–1919) abandoned his medical career in order to devote himself to his Wagner studies. Best known for his translations of Wagner's prose works, he published in 1899 this English translation of Heckel's memoirs (originally edited by his son Karl), interwoven with letters from Wagner to Heckel, who is described by the composer as his 'energetic friend'. Notwithstanding the stylistic idiosyncrasies of the translation, the work provides a valuable first-hand account of the progress made towards establishing what would become one of the world's most prestigious music festivals. The letters span the years 1871 to 1883.
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