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In November 1874, the Melbourne Philharmonic Society (MPS) premiered a new sacred cantata, Adoration, as part of their subscription concert series at Melbourne's Town Hall. The composer, Austin T. Turner, lived in Ballarat, Victoria, and had come to Melbourne to conduct the premiere of his work, using the Melbourne Philharmonic's available force of three hundred performers. Turner was well qualified for the task, being known within the musical community as an organist, singing instructor and conductor of Ballarat's Philharmonic and Harmonic societies since 1864. Programmed for the second half of the concert, and following on from Beethoven's First Symphony and Mass in C, Adoration was certainly an ambitious project, consisting of thirty numbers divided into two broad sections. The text was based on the Psalms with some original words by Turner himself and some borrowed from the Hallelujah chorus in Beethoven's Mount of Olives. The music was described, with some commendation, as having a ‘kind of power about it’, although not being particularly individual or showing ‘a new turn of thought, either in the invention of his melodies, or the construction of his harmonies’. Turner demonstrated an ‘affluent mind in music’, as evidenced by his ability to keep his parts moving; perhaps a little too much according to the Argus critic, who found one or two simpler numbers ‘a great relief in the midst of the kaleidoscope combinations of sound in which in this composition he has revelled’. References in the style of known composers gave the work merit, the music partly reminiscent of ‘Haydn, of Beethoven, of Handel, of Mendelssohn, Arne, Purcell, and others … and in so far as it does this it is a worthy composition’. The Melbourne Age reviewer also assured readers that the work contained many genuine moments that ‘even the greatest composer need not be ashamed’, again citing the works of Beethoven and Mendelssohn as principal models for inspiration.
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