The "Apostles" project was Elgar's most ambitious and extended creative undertaking. Spanning his entire career from schooldays until the years of decline after 1920, it remained unfinished at his death, having borne fruit in the two great oratorios The Apostles (1903) and The Kingdom (1906). Since the first performance of The Apostles, critical attention to these works has focused upon the allegedly 'patchwork' construction of their texts and music. The present thesis calls into question the validity of this interpretation and attempts to reassess the nature of Elgar's creative process, and the measure of his achievement, in The Apostles by means of an empirical and chronological survey of the extant sketches (transcriptions of many of which are included) and other sources. For reasons largely of space, it concentrates upon a single scene of the work -- "By the Wayside" -- the development of which embodies many representative features of the composer's approach.
The thesis is divided into three parts, framed by introductory and concluding chapters. Part One (comprising Chapters 1-3) traces the early history of the work up to the point when Elgar began work on the vocal score; during this time, the evolution of "By the Wayside" goes hand in hand with that of the project as a whole. Part Two (Chapters 4-5) comprises an analytical discussion of the Prologue and two excerpts from Scene 1, which attempts to identify, and trace the early development of, some of the more prominent aspects of Elgar's musical thinking in the work. Together, Parts One and Two provide the chronological and analytical basis for the discussion of "By the Wayside" itself which, in its various aspects, occupies Part Three (Chapters 6-8). Appendices include a transcription of Mrs Elgar's diary for the relevant period (July 1902--February 1903), an examination of the relationship of this time between Elgar and A.J. Jaeger, and its bearing on the latter's analyses of The Apostles and The Kingdom, and notes on Elgar's debts in the work to Longfellow's The Divine Tragedy and Ernst Pauer's collection of Traditional Hebrew Melodies.