Gramophone awards give a fanfare to the female face of trumpeting

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The Independent Culture

She is the new face of trumpet playing that could not be any further from images of colliery bands if she tried.

Alison Balsom confirmed her growing fan base yesterday when she won Classic FM's listeners' choice award at the prestigious annual awards of Gramophone magazine.

Balsom, 27, is a rare female trumpet soloist in a largely male world who has already notched up a Classical Brit this year against competition, including the violinist Nicola Benedetti, and has a three-disc deal with EMI Classics. She was named a New Generation Artist by Radio 3, which has profiled her work.

James Jolly, editor-in-chief of Gramophone, said: "Marrying thrilling musicianship with the looks of a marketeer's dreams, Alison Balsom is the very model of a modern classical musician. If a single young artist puts the trumpet on the map it will be Alison Balsom."

She has previously said she never considered being female a disadvantage when she was growing up in Royston, Hertfordshire. "It's only now that I realise from the outside it looks funny to people," she said.

With the glamorous excuse that she was skippering a boat in a sailing race in France, Balsom missed yesterday's ceremony at the Dorchester hotel in London. Her label passed on her thanks, particularly for recognition of the trumpet.

But some of the grandees of the classical music world, including Angela Hewitt, the Canadian pianist, and conductor Sir Charles Mackerras did attend.

Sir Charles, who turned 80 last year, was presented with a lifetime achievement award for his contribution to music.

"He's been a towering presence on the music scene for decades and continues to thrill, impress and entertain with his committed, stylish conducting," Mr Jolly said.

Hewitt, who had to leave the lunch early to perform in a concert in Manchester last night, was named artist of the year.

Mahler's Symphony No 6, performed by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra under Claudio Abbado, took the all-important record of the year honour, chosen by a voting academy of retailers, critics and broadcasters. Mr Jolly said it was difficult to imagine Mahler's intense music receiving a greater interpretation.

"Here is a thrilling memento of a great orchestra welcoming back a former music director with playing of titanic power and sensitivity," he said.

Five other records were shortlisted for album of the year, an honour previously taken by Nigel Kennedy with his 1985 recording of the Elgar Violin Concerto and by Sir John Eliot Gardiner for his Bach Cantatas.

They were: Taneyev Chamber works performed by Mikhail Pletnev; the Lindberg Clarinet Concerto with Kari Kriikku and the Finnish Royal Symphony Orchestra; an archive recording of the Bayreuth Festival Orchestra performing Wagner's Siegfried; Szymanowski Piano works with Piotr Anderszewski; and Schubert Lieder with Christian Gerhaher and Gerold Huber.

The annual editor's award went to Gerald Finley's Stanford Songs of the Sea, an album of British songs, with Finley accepting by video from Australia. Virgin Classics was named label of the year.

Gramophone is the oldest classical music review magazine and its awards are widely respected. Winners are chosen by a complex process whereby critics whittle hundreds of discs down to a handful in 15 categories. All 45 critics on the magazine then get a chance to vote for a single best album in each category before a voting academy of broadcasters, critics and retailers make the final selection.

And the winners are...

Record of the Year

Claudio Abbado's recording of Mahler's 6th Symphony, with the Berlin Philharmonic on DG.

Lifetime Achievement Award In Association with the BPI

Sir Charles Mackerras ­ conductor

Classic FM's Listeners' Choice Award

Alison Balsom ­ trumpet

Artist of the Year Award

Angela Hewitt ­ piano

Editor's Choice Award

Gerald Finley's Stanford Songs of the Sea with BBC NOW, conducted by Richard Hickox

Label of the Year in Association with SFH UK

Virgin Classics ­ Alain Lanceron, Jolly commended label president