Ralph Vaughan Williams: The Wasps

It was thanks to Cambridge University that Ralph Vaughan Williams wrote the music for a satirical production of the Aristophanes comedy, The Wasps.

He was invited to compose it by the fabulously named Cambridge Greek Play committee, which, incidentally, is still going strong, albeit it under a slightly different name. For proof, just take a look at www.cambridgegreekplay.com – a website of which Vaughan Williams would surely have approved!

Vaughan Williams had studied at Trinity College, Cambridge, in the 1890s, and had gone on to become one of the most exciting composers of his generation. Several of Vaughan Williams’s composition tutors – among them, Charles Villiers Stanford and Hubert Parry – had been similarly commissioned by the Greek Play committee in years gone by, so Vaughan Williams was following in illustrious footsteps.

For decades after writing the music for The Wasps, the Overture was the only section to be regularly performed. In 2005, the Hallé Orchestra and their conductor Sir Mark Elder recorded the complete incidental music, making it widely available for the first time since its composition.

Recommended Recording

Hallé Orchestra and Chorus; Mark Elder (conductor). Hallé: CDHLD 7510.