There was an audible hiss in London's Albert Hall as the announcer relayed the news that Nigel Kennedy would no longer be performing at the 2008 Classical BRITs. Those who didn't already know weren't told that he had quit the show due to "artistic differences" involving - apparently - him not being able to perform with his quartet of choice, multi-million selling UK group Bond.

But the presenter - UK wondergirl Myleene Klass - lightened the mood, resplendent in purple and alighting the podium after Italian tenor Andrea Bocelli and former Lloyd Webber squeeze Sarah Brightman opened the show with Quarantotto and Sartori's "Canto della terra" (Song Of The Earth) with typical hand-holding bombast.

Scottish violinist Nicola Benedetti accepted the Young British Classical Performer award from UK designer-dandy Laurence Llewellyn-Bowen, tripping up the steps as she went and reacting with customary sweetness. Anna Netrebko's scheduled Delibes solo was replaced with a musically tight and physically demonstrative turn from Australian-American newcomer Danielle De Niese but Netrebko rocked up later to accept her award for female artist of the year from Annie Lennox.

British thesp-mountaineer Brian Blessed - dressed in a green scarf given to him by the Dalai Llama - presented the best male artist accolade to cellist Steven Isserlis, who congratulated the organizers for getting his name right and performed a breathtaking Bach sarabande.

Multi-million selling crossover artist Josh Groban validated Kennedy's boycott with a saccharine "You Raise Me Up". Backstage, singer and best male artist nominee (he lost out, in a battle of years, to conductor Sir Colin Davis) Alfie Boe received a text informing him he was about to become a father and rushed back to Oxford and maturity.

Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber's outstanding achievement in music award closed the show with a touching tribute to his brother, who, he said, was the deserving recipient.

A broadcast of the Classical BRITs will be aired on UK ITV1 on May 15.

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