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A Wagner maven has found his rest

Rudolph Sabor, who wrote The Real Wagner and translated the Ring operas for Phraidon Press, ded this week aged 98.

German born, a Hitler refugee, Rudolph was Director of the Bexley Centre for Music and Dance in outer London and a formidable propagator of high culture for young people. Witty, erudite, unconventional, he knew every word and not that Wagner wrote.

The conductor Tim Henty writes:  ’He was a family friend of ours, and I was privileged to have been taught the piano by him from a very early age. They were unconventional lessons, and often very little to do with the piano, but they were always intensely involved and inspiring. He introduced me, along with countless others, to the pleasures of Wagner.’


sabor rudolph    sabor wagner

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  1. Ah! I have the Phaidon set. They are really excellent books. There are several columns to the text: original Wagner, poetic translation by Sabor, the current leitmotifs and their span corresponding to the text, and the last two columns contain explanatory notes or trivia related to the corresponding moment in the text/music.

    Many of these notes are very entertaining, e.g.:
    “Alberich calls his brother ‘treacherous troll’. Pot and kettle”

    He also includes lots of historical factoids in these columns, such as original stage directions, and also trivia such as “At this point Wagner turned to Liszt at the rehearsal and said ‘this is the bit I stole from you’”

    Elsewhere in each book (there are 5, one for each opera plus an overview) there are comprehensive but straightforward notes on all the leitmotifs and the text, including musical examples.

    The translation itself is particularly good because he tries to keep the same alliteration and internal rhymes as the Wagner, and the same meter, without contorting the English. He basically never puts a foot wrong throughout and it’s’ 10 times better than any other translation I have read.

    And what’s more the books are beautifully made as physical objects – great paper, print quality, binding, etc.

    I read the whole of the Walküre one while watching it live at the Proms a few years ago with Domingo etc. A memorable evening.

    Really brilliant books and I highly recommend them to everyone!

    Thank you Mr Sabor, and RIP.

  2. “The Real Wagner” has remained in my library for 23 years this February — its excellence not to be discarded despite the need of repeated and massive culling of the books.

    • I found “The Real Wagner” at a used book store in NYC & it has been for many years one of my favorite books on the Master – and I have a fairly large collection. I would like to get the rest of the Phaidon set. A great Wagnerian who I would have loved to have met – RIP.

  3. I agree with Tim- Sabor’s Phaidon volumes on The Ring are an absolute model of how such things should be done. Indispensable.

  4. “Every word and not that Wagner wrote”? “Not” should be “note”, surely?

    I’m very sorry that this great Wagnerian failed to reach 100. Would that I had met him; I much admired his writings.

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