Born in Maidstone, Kent, George emigrated to Melbourne with his father, where he practised as a teacher of music. He returned to England in 1866, and died in Barnstaple in 1877. His one large-scale composition, the oratorio Ruth, was first performed in Prahran in Melbourne in 1864, and repeated in London in 1868. Tolhurst is therefore notable as the composer of the first oratorio composed in the colony of Victoria. Though well received by early audiences, Ruth was generally derided for bathos and technical ineptitude in the musical press, and by the early 20th century was generally regarded as the worst oratorio ever composed. It was revived in a re-orchestrated and abridged version at the Royal Albert Hall, London in 1973, conducted by Antony Hopkins.
Royston Gustavson, "Tolhurst, George"; "Ruth", in Warren Bebbington, ed., The Oxford Companion to Australian Music (Melbourne : Oxford University Press, 1997) ISBN 0-19-553432-8
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