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Sarah Connolly wins UK classical music's top live singing award

LONDON (Reuters) - Mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly and Scottish pianist Steven Osborne took two of the top awards for live British classical music on Tuesday at the Royal Philharmonic Society (RPS) Music Awards.

Connolly, who won the "Silver Lyre" for best solo singer, showed "exceptional musicianship and consistency over an increasingly wide range of styles", the RPS said in a statement.

Osborne took the award for best instrumentalist and Kirill Karabits, the Latvian-born principal conductor of the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, won the conducting award.

The RPS awards are the highest recognition for live classical music in Britain.

RPS Chairman John Gilhooly heralded an "outstanding year" for classical music despite the difficult economic climate in a speech where he cautioned against forgetting the value of culture.

"Making money never has been, and never should be, the driving force for great art," Gilhooly said.

"The Philharmonic Society sent Beethoven 100 pounds ($150) on his deathbed to ease his penury, and commissioned Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, not because they expected or even hoped for a blockbuster success, but because they, quite simply, wanted to hear more of his music."

Other RPS winners included Irish composer Gerald Barry, who won the Large-Scale Composition award for his opera "The Importance of Being Earnest".

British composer Rebecca Saunders won the RPS Music Award for Chamber-Scale Composition for the "new kind of language" explored in her string quartet "Fletch".

Birmingham Opera Company's world premiere of Karlheinz Stockhausen's six-hour opera cycle "Mittwoch aus Licht" ("Wednesday from Light") in a former chemical plant in central Birmingham won the award for opera and music theatre.

The work featured two choirs, flying solo instrumentalists, live electronic and acoustic music, and a string quartet streamed live from four airborne helicopters.

The jury described the production as "bold in imagination and brilliant in accomplishment", giving the pioneering opera company its third RPS Music Award in 12 years.

(Reporting by Paul Casciato; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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