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Born in Adelaide to parents noted for their appreciation of music and art in general, Sutherland grew up and lived in Melbourne most of her life. She began her early formal musical training in 1914 with Edward Gall (piano) and Fritz Hart (composition) while on scholarship at the Marshall Hart Conservatory and the Melbourne University Conservatory. Following this she taught piano and theory for a time at the Melbourne Conservatory and worked as an assistant to Goll.

In 1923 Sutherland traveled first to London for study with Arnold Bax and then on to Vienna for further study, returning to Australia in 1925. Bax became a valued friend and musical mentor for her as a result, with an abiding strong influence on her compositional style. After her return to "down under" she worked for the next several decades as a pianist and teacher, while actively pursuing her compositional muse and engaging extensively in organizations to promote music and young musicians in her native land. For many years she served on the Council for Education, Music and the Arts and on the advisory board for the Australian Music Fund. She was also very active in helping to develop the Victorian Arts Center and was a council member of the National Gallery Society of Victoria.

Sutherland's life-long committment to music, both in her own compositions and in her many services to Australian music, were recognized in 1969 with the award of an honorary doctorate from Melbourne University and, in 1970, when she was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE).

Sutherland's compositions number over ninety, the majority of which are chamber works. It is for these that she will most likely be remembered, but she also wrote many orchestral works, concertoes, and an opera. Her compositions are marked by a sense of classical restraint, with many of them following baroque forms in a flexible, cogent and strongly expressive context, both lyrical and dissonant. In addition to Bax, the major musical influences on her style were from Hindemith and Bartók. She pioneered new music in Australia during the first half of this century and was a major force both as a teacher and activist in encouraging and development opportunities for the country's younger composers.

 

Musical Examples

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The Green Singer

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