Sir Edward Elgar’s The Apostles was originally conceived as the first part of a trilogy telling of the early years of Christianity, from the choosing of the apostles through to Pentecost and the subsequent mission of the disciples to the Gentiles ending with the establishment of the Church Universal. The first part, tracing the events up to the Ascension, took shape as The Apostles in 1903. The second part was The Kingdom first performed three years later on 1906. The two works are closely related with many themes occurring in both works. By the time of the first performance Elgar had consolidated his position as a great man of British music – think for example of the Pomp and Circumstance marches and the Cockaigne overture as well as the Enigma Variations.
The soloists take on specific parts throughout, although the tenor, as well as singing the part of St John, takes on a general role in setting the scene at various points, as does the contralto (briefly) in the last section of the work. The soprano takes the parts of both the Blessed Virgin and the Angel Gabriel, the alto that of Mary Magdalene and the three basses sing St Peter, Judas and Jesus. The role of Judas is given an unusual emphasis: as Elgar explained ‘To my mind Judas’ crime & sin was despair.’
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Why not listen to the music before you buy your tickets? We have included a YouTube clip of the piece being performed as an example.