Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber has been awarded the outstanding achievement prize at the Classical Brits.

The West End impresario was presented with the award by ITV chairman Sir Michael Grade at the Royal Albert Hall ceremony on Thursday evening.

The I'd Do Anything judge saw his 60th birthday commemorated with his first Brit award, almost 25 years after he was awarded the Grammy for best contemporary classical composition for his Requiem Mass.

"Webber's musical legacy continues to include unparalleled success in musical theatre for which he has become famous through the world," the Classical Brits panel explained.

The NS&I album of the year prize, voted for by Classic FM listeners, went to vocal four-piece Blake, who formed after meeting via the Facebook social networking site.

Their eponymous album, which reached number one in the classical charts and the top 20 of the pop charts, becomes only the second debut release to win the NS&I album of the year at the Classical Brit Awards.

Violinist Nichola Benedetti, 21, took the young British classical performer or group award for the first time, after two previous nominations, while soprano Anna Nebretko took her second Classical Brit in two years, winning the female artist of the year prize to follow her singer of the year award in 2007.

The male artist of the year award was claimed by Sir Colin Davis, the 80-year-old president of the London Symphony Orchestra, beating significantly younger nominees Rolando Villazon and Alfie Boe.

Other winners included James Newton Howard, who claimed the soundtrack of the year for Blood Diamond, and cellist Steven Isserli won the critics' choice award.

The Classical Brits, presented by Myleene Klass, can be seen on ITV1 on May 15th at 22:35 BST.

09/05/2008 09:37:31