The programme of the year’s most anticipated orchestral event has been revealed, but will Vienna surpass Berlin?

The Vienna Philharmonic returns to our shores in September and October following the orchestra’s Australian debut at the Sydney Opera House in 2006, then with Valery Gergiev at the helm. Unlike the earlier performances confined to one city, this visit encompasses Sydney, Brisbane and Perth.

The two all-Germanic tour programmes for 2011 may be seen as less adventurous than those of the Berlin Philharmonic – another great bastion of the European art music tradition – for that orchestra’s performances in Sydney and Perth last year, which included Berg, Rachmaninov and Australian composer Brett Dean. Nonetheless, they showcase what Vienna’s finest have done best since 1842, from Mozart, Schubert and Beethoven to Brahms, Bruckner and Mahler, the latter having conducted the orchestra himself between 1898 and 1901.

Christoph Eschenbach will conduct throughout the Australian tour. The German-born maestro studied with George Szell and benefited from Herbert von Karajan’s mentorship for nearly 25 years. Based in Washington DC where he acts as music director with the National Symphony Orchestra, Eschenbach has been a regular guest conductor of the Vienna Philharmonic since 2003.

For Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn...