Desmond, Astra (1893–1973)

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Desmond, Astra (1893–1973)

English contralto who introduced many of the works of Edvard Grieg, Edward Elgar, and other modern composers to British audiences. Born in Torquay, England, on April 10, 1893; died in Faversham, England, on August 16, 1973; married Sir Thomas Neame, in 1920; made a Commander of the British Empire in 1949 for her musical contributions.

Astra Desmond studied singing at the Royal Academy of Music with Blanche Marchesi and gave her first recital in London in 1915. Though she was the first to sing the title role in Rutland Boughton's opera Alkestis, Desmond concentrated mainly on concerts and oratorios. Particularly known for performing new works, she was one of the first to sing Edvard Grieg's works and gave numerous recitals in the original Norwegian. Desmond was awarded a medal of St. Olav for her serious study and performing of Scandinavian works. She also researched and wrote about Grieg, Dvorak, and Sibelius as well as other composers. Desmond was associated with the works of Sir Edward Elgar after 1920 and was considered to be an outstanding interpreter of the Angel in Elgar's The Dream of Gerontius.

John Haag , Athens, Georgia

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