Courtenay Cleary performs Sutherland’s Violin Concerto


Courtenay Cleary holding a violin
Courtenay Cleary, Violin (Image: Pia Johnson)

In a season dedicated to musical vision, the CSO presents Margaret Sutherland’s innovative Violin Concerto, an ingenious blend of lyrical Romanticism and the modernist, post-Stravinsky sound world she inhabited.

The CSO catches up with guest violinist Courtenay Cleary ahead of the performance. 

Describe Margaret Sutherland’s Violin Concerto in three words.

Courtenay Cleary: Intense, lush, and whimsical.


I’ve really enjoyed discovering this hidden gem for the first time. 


Have you performed this work before? What’s it been like to prepare it?

CC: I have not played this piece before but I’ve really enjoyed discovering this hidden gem for the first time. Although it’s a shame for digital listeners that not many recordings of this piece exist, it has been a great opportunity for me to learn the piece from the score and create my own interpretation without too much external influence.

I’m excited to rehearse with the orchestra and experience the textures in real life soon.

How do you psych up for a concert? How do you unwind?

CC: The days before a concert I get excited choosing my dress, and putting the final touches on the piece during my practice time along with a bit of score study.

On the day of the concert I like to eat a few bananas, take my time doing my make-up, and make sure I have my lucky, tiny silver elephant in my pocket.

Courtenay Cleary holding a violin case.
Courtenay Cleary, Violin (Image: Pia Johnson)
If you could invite one of the composers on this program to dinner, who would it be and why?

CC: Definitely Margaret Sutherland. From her writing, it seems like she’d have a really strong and quirky personality so I think we’d get along well. I’d love to ask her what it’s like to be a young female composer in the twentieth century which would have had its struggles, of course.

I’d also like to ask her what colours and characters she most closely associates with her Violin Concerto.


I’d love to ask Margaret Sutherland what it’s like to be a young female composer in the twentieth-century.


What’s something you love that has nothing to do with music?

CC: When I’m not playing my violin you can usually find me with my pony, Cooper. His breed is an Appaloosa so he looks just like a Dalmatian but in pony form! Together we enjoy dressage lessons and roaming around the local equestrian grounds.

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