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Paul McCartney won the best album award for Ecce Cor Meum at the Classical Brits gala at the Royal Albert Hall in London on Thursday. ((Ian West/Associated Press))

Paul McCartney has won the Classical Brit best album award for music he wrote while grieving for his late wife, Linda.

McCartney's work Ecce Cor Meum (Behold My Heart) beat albums from artists such as Sting, Katherine Jenkins, Alfie Boe and Bryn Terfel.

McCartney began composing the album, his fourth classical work,before his first wife died of breast cancer in 1998.

"When she died, it stalled me. I just couldn't do anything, really. I was just grieving," McCartney said in a 2006 interview.

"I remember sitting at the keyboards, crying, more like weeping, actually. It was kind of therapeutic. I still find it a very sad piece of music, but in an uplifting way."

He finished the album nine years later and it premiered last year in London's Royal Albert Hall.

McCartney, 64, is divorcing his second wife, Heather Mills.

The album of the year award was voted on by Classic FM listeners and readers of its magazine, and is the onlyBritaward that has public input.

The other awards are given based on the recommendations of classical music experts. They were presented at Royal Albert Hall on Thursday, at a ceremony featuring performances by Sting, Jenkins and Boe.

The Berlin Philharmonic and its conductor Sir Simon Rattle won the classical recording of the year award, for Holst's The Planets.

Violinist Ruth Palmer, who hired a concert orchestra to make a recording of her favourite piece of music, Shostakovich's Violin Concerto No. 1, was named best young British classical performer.

Other Classical Brit awards:

  • Singer of the year: Russian soprano Anna Netrebko for Russian Album & Violetta.
  • Composer of the year: George Fenton for music for the BBC documentary series Planet Earth.
  • Contemporary composer: John Adams for The Dharma at Big Sur/ My Father Knew Charles Ives.
  • Instrumentalist of the year: Leif Ove Andsnes for Horizons.
  • Critics' award: Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, the RIAS Kammerchoir and Rene Jacobs for Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito.