The 2011 ARIA for Best Classical Album has been awarded to Sally Whitwell for her first recital disc on ABC Classics,  Mad Rush.

The collection of intimate solo works by the American minimalist composer Philip Glass has proved a surprise hit, reaching No 3 in the Classical ARIA charts in June and captivating listeners from traditional classical and alternative music camps.

A relative newcomer, the young Sydney-based pianist beat out the usual suspects including the Australian Chamber Orchestra, Teddy Tahu Rhodes and Karin Schaupp, as well as another first-time nominee, early music trio Latitude 37.

But Whitwell’s colleagues and fellow musicians were the first to be thanked in her speech at today’s ARIA Fine Arts Awards ceremony at Sydney Theatre. “Since there is only one classical music award, I feel that I’m accepting on behalf of the absolutely wonderful classical music community we have in this country,” she said.

“It was ever so wonderful and surprising to win an ARIA award”, she told Limelight. “Especially given the extremely high quality of all the nominees. Talk about in-the-company-of-greatness!

“I never really anticipated that my little abstract minimalist offering to the world would have the kind of...