Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Music Webmaster Len Mullenger:

The chamber music with strings
Violin Sonata (1925) [27.06]
Nocturne for violin and piano (1945?) [3.21]
Contrasts for two violins (1953-4) [13.27]
Six Bagatelles for violin and viola (1958) [11.03]
Divertimento for string trio (1958) [13.12]
The World and the Child for voice and string trio (1959) 10.29
Marina Marsden (violin) all works
Christopher Latham (violin) Contrasts
Justine Wickham (viola) Bagatelles and Divertimento
Robert Chamberlain (piano) sonata
Elizabeth Campbell (mezzo) The World and the Child
rec March-May 1997 Sydney
TALL POPPIES TP116 [79.12]
Amazon US

Sutherland contributed in sparse numbers but in richness of individuality to the output of twentieth century Australian composers. In her economically expressed music she is by no means the Bax disciple her tutelage with that composer might lead you to expect.

In David Symons' extensive notes (expansive supporting text being a delightful feature of Tall Poppies CDs) her role is contrasted with that of her countrywoman Peggy Glanville-Hicks. Sutherland accommodated her creativity within the orthodoxy of wife and mother while Glanville-Hicks travelled widely rejecting any bearing her gender might have had on her music.

The sonata, though admired by Bax, is no Baxian epic. Rather it is rhapsodic in a fairly 'advanced' idiom. Sutherland drops her guard at times including at 5.38 in the middle movement. Otherwise think in terms of Bloch and Szymanowski given a bitter harmonic twist. The caprice of the work also lifts us towards Cyril Scott and Sorabji.

The Nocturne joins the worlds of the sentimental song and of central European folksong. This might easily have been a chip from Szymanowski's Mythes though more straightforward harmonically speaking. A charmer.

The remaining tracks abandon the piano. Without undue dryness the content dips towards the didactic. The emotional core is staid though excitement colours the gay finale of Contrasts, a work in which playing of technical mastery incorporates a real sense of dynamic gradation. Swapping one of the pair of violins for a viola we come to the similar Bagatelles. Here, however, a more emotional element is allowed to surface. The elegance and folk feel of the music suggests a Hungarian connection. The Divertimento continues on similar tracks. Its rewards are there but are in economy of expression rather than luxury.

A shame that the words of The World and the Child (by Judith Wright) are not included. These take as their theme the wonder of a child's intuitive learning and the loss of innocence implicit in the process of learning. Stylistically Sutherland veers into Britten territory although she allows herself slightly more emotional pith. I was also reminded of Arnold Cooke and of William Alwyn in his more austere moments. Masterfully, Sutherland breathes softly over the words 'nets have been breached and men have died in vain'. Magically done. I now want to hear her other songs including The Orange Tree and The gentle water bird.

The dignified enriching beauty of Sutherland's music is undeniable.

Rob Barnett


Available in the UK from Seaford Music.
phone +44 (0) 1323 732553
fax +44 (0) 1323 417455
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East Sussex BN21 3HP
United Kingdom

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Tall Poppies Records
PO Box 373
Glebe NSW 2037

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