Classical Brit for violinist who took up the instrument at the age of four

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The Independent Culture

It is four years since Nicola Benedetti achieved nationwide fame when she won the BBC Young Musician of the Year but last night, at the third time of trying, she secured another major award when she was named best Young British Classical Performer at London's Royal Albert Hall.

The Classical Brit Award capped a year of achievement for the 20-year-old violinist, who took up the instrument at the age of four and studied at the Yehudi Menuhin School before signing an album deal worth seven figures with Universal Music Group at 16. It follows a series of major appearances, including performances with the Berlin Philharmonic and concerts in the United States and her native Scotland.

At the other end of the age range, the conductor Sir Colin Davis, 80, president of the London Symphony Orchestra, won the Classical Brit Award for Male Artist of the Year for his interpretations of Elgar's Enigma Variations as well as pieces by Sibelius and Beethoven. He beat fellow nominees Ronaldo Villazon and Alfie Boe, who was working in a garage when his tenor voice was discovered by a customer.

Organisers also honoured the composer and theatre impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber with an award for Outstanding Achievement in Music. Lloyd Webber, the creator of numerous West End and Broadway musicals including Phantom of the Opera, is now known to a new audience of millions of television viewers for his talent quest shows such as How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?

A dispute between the organisers and the violinist Nigel Kennedy threatened to overshadow the proceedings, which are scheduled to be shown on television next week.

The violinist lashed out at the Classical Brits committee, describing them as "old farts" after they pulled the plug on his plans to perform the gypsy violin piece "Czardas", by Vittorio Monti, with the all-female string quartet Bond.

Kennedy, 51, said that he had been prevented from performing. "I was looking forward to this because the quartet Bond had agreed to perform the gypsy song 'Czardas' with me, and having just finished rehearsing, it had become clear that this was going to be one of my best performances of that music, not just musically but as a visual TV spectacle as well."

He added: "Seeing that the words 'music business' still place the word 'music' first, I am not going to let some old farts dictate my musical decisions."

Dickon Stainer and Thomas Kaurich, co-chairmen of the awards, said: "It is regrettable that Nigel Kennedy will no longer be performing. Nigel is a great artist with a unique vision, but artistic differences have proved insurmountable."

Among those who did perform at the ninth annual Classical Brit Awards were Bryn Terfel, Josh Groban, Andrea Bocelli, Sarah Brightman and Anna Netrebko.