Vaughan Williams’ “The Wasps” Overture: Raising the Curtain on Stinging Satire

In 1909, the Cambridge Greek Play committee invited Ralph Vaughan Williams to compose incidental music for a production of Aristophanes’ comic satire, The Wasps. The play, first produced in 422 B.C., is a caustic commentary on the Athenian judiciary system. Vaughan Williams’ music, later arranged in a suite, includes the witty March Past of the Kitchen Utensils. A year earlier, Vaughan Williams spent three months in Paris studying with Maurice Ravel. Later, Ravel commented that Vaughan Williams was “the only one of my pupils who does not write my music.”

Indeed, the Overture which opens The Wasps is filled with the shimmering colors and pristine lines we associate with Ravel’s orchestration. At the same time, the distinctive voice of Vaughan Williams is unmistakable. The Overture begins with the raspy buzzing of swarming wasps. The music which follows has little to do with the insect, or with Ancient Greece. Instead, it revels in the serene majesty of England’s “green and pleasant land.”

Recordings

  • Vaughan Williams: Overture: The Wasps, Sir Mark Elder, Hallé Orchestra Chandos.net

About Timothy Judd

A native of Upstate New York, Timothy Judd has been a member of the Richmond Symphony violin section since 2001. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music where he earned the degrees Bachelor of Music and Master of Music, studying with world renowned Ukrainian-American violinist Oleh Krysa.

The son of public school music educators, Timothy Judd began violin lessons at the age of four through Eastman’s Community Education Division. He was a student of Anastasia Jempelis, one of the earliest champions of the Suzuki method in the United States.

A passionate teacher, Mr. Judd has maintained a private violin studio in the Richmond area since 2002 and has been active coaching chamber music and numerous youth orchestra sectionals.

In his free time, Timothy Judd enjoys working out with Richmond’s popular SEAL Team Physical Training program.

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