Sydney pianist Sally Whitwell receives the pointy prize for her debut album Mad Rush.

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 impact it’s enjoyed.” 

Whitwell and ABC Classics are making preparations for a follow-up release: in keeping with the minimalist theme of her debut, it will include music by Yann Tiersen from the film Amélie and at least one work composed by Whitwell herself. As with the ARIA Award-winning album, her sophomore effort will be performed on an Australian Stuart and Sons piano.

In the category for Best Jazz Album, Katie Noonan’s Elixir project reigned supreme. At today’s awards presentation Noonan thanked the Australian Chamber Orchestra quartet led by Helena Rathbone for their contribution to the album First Seed Ripening.

Indigenous singer-songwriter Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu Rrakala; it his his third ARIA since his debut solo album in 2008.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the ARIA Awards, and today’s opening remarks from CEO Dan Rosen acknowledged and promised to address the “problems” with last year’s proceedings: poorly spoken hosts and presenters, mismanagement of the segregated “genre” ceremonies (including Classical, Jazz and World Music categories) and an overriding air of confusion. Nonetheless, the Fine Arts categories remain isolated from the main event for pop and rock nominees, to be held at Sydney Olympic Park on November 27.

2011 ARIA Fine Arts Award nominees (winners in bold)

Best Classical Album

Sally Whitwell — Mad Rush: Piano Music of Philip Glass (ABC Classics)

Karin Schaupp & Flinders Quartet — Fandango (ABC Classics)

Latitude 37 — Latitude 37 (ABC Classics)

Richard Tognetti, Australian Chamber Orchestra — Mozart Violin Concertos Vol 2 (BIS/Select)

Teddy Tahu Rhodes — Serious Songs (ABC Classics)


Best Jazz Album

Elixir featuring Katie Noonan — First Seed Ripening (ABC Music)

Allan Browne, Marc Hannaford, Sam Anning — Shreveport Stomp (Jazzhead Records)

Kristin Berardi and The Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra — Kristin Berardi meets The Jazzgroove Mothership Orchestra (Jazzhead Records)

Sarah McKenzie — Don’t Tempt Me (ABC Music)

The Idea of North — Extraordinary Tale (ABC Jazz)


Best Original Soundtrack/Cast/Show Album

Chris Lilley — Angry Boys Official Soundtrack Album (ABC Music)

Jed Kurzel — Snowtown Music from the Motion Picture (Ivy League Records)

Stephen Pigram, Alan Pigram, Alex Lloyd — Mad Bastards: Music from the Motion Picture (Bush Turkey Films/MGM Distribution)

Sydney Symphony and cast conducted by Alexander Briger — Don John of Austria (ABC Classics)

Various Artists — Mary Poppins Australian Cast Recording (Walt Disney Records/Universal Music Australia)


Best World Music Album

Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu — Rrakala (Skinnyfish Music/MGM Distribution)

David Bridie, Hein Arumisore, Jacob Rumbiak, Ronny Kareni & Donny Roem — Strange Birds in Paradise: A West Papuan Soundtrack (Wantok Musik/Planet/MGM Distribution)

Saltwater Band — Malk (Skinnyfish Music Music/MGM Distribution)

Shaolin Afronauts — Flight Of The Ancients (Freestyle/Fuse)

Slava & Leonard Grigoryan, Joseph & James Tawadros — Band of Brothers (ABC Music)


Best Music DVD

AC/DC — AC/DC Live at River Plate (Albert Productions)

Powderfinger — Sunsets Farewell Tour (Universal Music Australia)

RocKwiz — Live National Tour (Liberation Music)

Tex Perkins — Man In Black (Sony Music Entertainment Australia)

Various — triple j One Night Stand (ABC Music)


2011 ARIA artisan award nominees (winners in bold)

Best Cover Art

Alter — Cut Copy Zonoscope (Modular Recordings)

Aaron Hayward, David Homer (Debaser) — Art vs Science The Experiment (Green/MGM Distribution)

Carlo Santone — Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu Rrakala (Skinnyfish Music/MGM Distribution) Aaron Hayward, David Homer (Debaser) — Billy Thorpe Billy Thorpe’s Tangier (Sony Music Entertainment Australia)

Ken Done — Oh Mercy Great Barrier Grief (EMI Music Australia)


Best Video

Productions — Gotye, Somebody That I Used to Know (feat. Kimbra) (Samples ‘n’ Seconds Records/Eleven: A Music Company)

Bart Borghesi — Eskimo Joe Love Is A Drug (Warner Music Australia) Carlo Santone – Geoffrey Gurrumul Yunupingu, Gopuru (Skinnyfish Music/MGM Distribution) David Michod/Flood Projects – Children Collide, Loveless (Universal Music Australia) Guy Franklin – Kimbra, Cameo Lover (Warner Music Australia) Natasha Pincus for Starkraving


Engineer of the Year

François Tetaz — Gotye Somebody That I Used to Know (feat. Kimbra)

Dave Parkin — Drapht Rapunzel (The Ayems/Sony Music Entertainment Australia)

Greg Clarke — Billy Thorpe Billy Thorpe’s Tangier (Sony Music Entertainment Australia) Matt Lovell — Eskimo Joe Ghosts of the Past (Warner Music Australia)

Wayne Connolly — Josh Pyke No One Wants A Lover (Ivy League Records)


Producer of the Year

Wally De Backer — Gotye Somebody That I Used to Know (feat. Kimbra)

Boy & Bear — Boy & Bear Moonfire (Island Australia/Universal Music Australia)

Daniel Denholm — Billy Thorpe Billy Thorpe’s Tangier (Sony Music Entertainment Australia) Eskimo Joe — Eskimo Joe Ghosts of the Past (Warner Music Australia)

Wayne Connolly, Josh Pyke – Josh Pyke, No One Wants A Lover (Ivy League Records)