The British Museum launches its first music festival

A two-week festival at the British Museum hopes to combine classical and contemporary music with its global historical exhibitions

Published: April 16, 2018 at 9:00 am

‘Europe and the world: a symphony of cultures’ is the next in a series of festivals showcasing performance alongside panel discussions, following events in Jerusalem and Dresden. The concerts at the British Museum will aim to create a greater understanding of the role of encyclopaedic museums in Europe and the World.


The festival will take place from 16 to 29 April and will feature seventeen performances of different styles and genres, some of which will include a panel discussion. Hartwig Fischer, director of The British Museum hopes the festival will ‘encourage listening to others, to ourselves and to the great symphony of cultures represented by the British Museum.’

Works by composers such as Ligeti, Richard Strauss and Messiaen, will be performed alongside traditional music from across the world, including medieval Chinese music, Spanish flamenco and Byzantine choral music.

Many of the performances will see the music juxtaposed with the museum’s exhibits, such as seventh-century orchestral Japanese music staged among stone sculptures of Ancient Egypt. Daniel Kühnel, artistic director of the festival, sees the concerts as a way to ‘use music and performance to tell stories, explore new ideas in a historic setting and explore encounters between cultures’.

The museum’s historic Reading Room will be used for special performances including the closing concert of the festival. This will feature the Arditti Quartet, as well as weekend performances of Ligeti’s Poème Symphonique for 100 metronomes.

In collaboration, BBC Radio 3 will be broadcasting three programmes featuring performances from the festival. Music Matters will be reporting from the festival, highlighting pieces from Indian, African and Asian cultures and how they have influences and changed European music. The ensemble Reigakusha will perform traditional Gagakum music on Music Planet. On the 23 April, In Tune will feature performers from the festival including the Romanian vocal ensemble, Corul Madrigal.


Europe and the world: a symphony of cultures runs from 16-29 April, organised by the British Museum and the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden and supported by the Federal Foreign Office of the Federal Republic of Germany. Presented in association with BBC Radio 3. Tickets available here.


Freya ParrDigital Editor and Staff Writer, BBC Music Magazine

Freya Parr is BBC Music Magazine's Digital Editor and Staff Writer. She has also written for titles including the Guardian, Circus Journal, Frankie and Suitcase Magazine, and runs The Noiseletter, a fortnightly arts and culture publication. Freya's main areas of interest and research lie in 20th-century and contemporary music.

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