Margaret Sutherland's first piano teacher was her aunt Julia Sutherland (1861-1930), a pupil of Louis Pabst, a German emigré then considered to be Melbourne's leading piano teacher (himself a pupil of Anton Rubinstein, and Percy Grainger's first teacher). A student of Edward Goll in Australia and of Sir Arnold Bax in London during the 1920s, Sutherland wrote pieces in almost all forms, but particularly concentrated on the genre of chamber music. Her major works include a symphony, The Four Temperaments (orchestrated by Robert W. Hughes in 1964), concertos for various instruments (including violin), a symphonic poem entitled Haunted Hills (1953), and the chamber opera The Young Kabbarli (1964; libretto by Maie Casey). A severe stroke in 1969 ended her composing career.
Despite the emphasis on non-vocal works in her total output, one of Margaret Sutherland's most recognised pieces is "In the Dim Counties" (1936) for voice and piano accompaniment from Five Songs. Sutherland sets her music to the poetry of Shaw Neilson, considered a ‘"pastoral" lyric poet’ from Australia whose verse has ‘simplicity of form and restraint of utterance’. Sutherland captures this through sharp rhythms, light instrumentation and ‘even musical balance’. Five Songs has been recorded by numerous Australian female artists such as Helen Noonan.
In 1927 Margaret Sutherland married a Melbourne physician and psychiatrist, Norman Arthur Albiston. They had a son (Mark, 1928) and a daughter (Jennifer, 1930, who predeceased her mother). The marriage did not last, and they divorced in 1948. Although Norman was a music lover, he believed that a woman aspiring to be a composer was an indicator of mental derangement, and at one time he discussed his wife's mental state with Felix Werder.
She was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 1970 Queen's Birthday Honours. She was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal in 1977. She was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia in the 1981 Queen's Birthday Honours.
Works not mentioned above
- 6 Australian Songs
- Four Blake Songs
- Two Chorale Preludes – Jesu, meine Freude
- Six songs to poems of Judith Wright
- Chérie Watters-Cowan, Margaret Sutherland: Experiences as a music student, teacher and performer. Retreieved 14 March 2016
- "The Australian Symphony in the 1950s" (PDF). Retrieved 27 June 2010.
- Australian Dictionary of Biography: Margaret Sutherland. Retrieved 14 March 2016
- Susan Hawthorne, Renate Klein, Australia for Women: Travel and Culture. Retrieved 14 March 2016
- John Carmody, "Songs of praise", Sydney Morning Herald, 16 June 2012. Retrieved 14 March 2016
- It's an Honour: OBE. Retrieved 14 March 2016
- It's an Honour: AO. Retreieved 14 March 2016
- Triplow, Leighton H. "An analysis of 'In the Dim Counties’ from Five Songs (1936) by Margaret Sutherland", 2011.
- David Symons (1997). "The music of Margaret Sutherland". Currency Press, Sydney.
- Cliff Hanna quoted in David Symons, The Music of Margaret Sutherland (Sydney: Currency Press, 1997), 47; David Symons The Music of Margaret Sutherland (Sydney: Currency Press, 1997), 47. Symons does not state when Hanna made this comment.
- Thérèse Radic, ‘Margaret Sutherland (1897-1984)’, liner notes to Helen Noonan, Woman's Song: Songs by Australian Woman Composers, Newmarket Music, NEW 1042.2, c. 1994.
- Biography of Margaret Sutherland
- Australian Music Centre link about Sutherland
- Margaret Sutherland's Australian theatre credits at AusStage