Renegade classical pianist headlines.

The city of Melbourne will experience a fast-paced feast of music and the arts from October 6 when its annual festival launches 52 shows and 15 world premieres over 17 days. The Melbourne Festival lineup revealed today features firebrand British pianist James Rhodes in his highly anticipated Australian debut.

Other classical music highlights include the Kronos Quartet in the Australian premiere of Sun Rings, the NASA-commissioned audio-visual collaboration between the quartet, composer Terry Riley and designer Willie Williams.

Charismatic young violist Maxim Rysanov, the 2008 Gramophone Young Artist of the Year, makes his national debut with the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra following performances at the Proms and the Concertgebouw.

Melbourne’s esteemed local music companies will come out in full force. Students from the Australian National Academy of Music will perform in Quartetthaus, a weeklong series of intimate music and sound installations embracing string quartet repertoire ranging from Beethoven to John Cage. On festival opening night Victorian Opera will join forces with Melbourne’s contemporary dance company Chunky Move to present a new work, Assembly, exploring the motion and energy of crowds.

Artistic director Brett Sheehy declares the 2011 festival “the most pan-cultural I’ve had the privilege to direct”, citing acts from India, Sudan, Indonesia, Japan, Syria and other nations as well as indigenous music collective Black Arm Band.

One multicultural highlight for adventurous opera lovers will be a joyous South African adaptation of Mozart’s The Magic Flute (translated to Impempe Yomlingo), with the immortal score of the original transposed for an orchestra of marimbas and exotic percussion.

“I hope this year’s program will encourage Melburnians to get out of the house or out of the office, away from a keyboard or screen, and to gather with others in the streets and theatres, the halls and galleries, the parks and sidewalks of their city,” says Sheehy.

The Melbourne International Arts Festival runs from October 6 – 22. For full program details visit www.melbournefestival.com.au.