The British Museum is to open its galleries for a festival of musical performance.

Europe and the world: a symphony of cultures‘ (16–29 April 2018) aims to create a dialogue between works of classical and contemporary music and the British Museum’s collection.

The two-week event will feature 17 different performances, some accompanied by panel discussions. Programmed by artistic director Daniel Kühnel, director of the Hamburg Symphony, it continues the work of music festivals and panel discussions that took place in major museums in Jerusalem and Dresden.

The festival includes pieces by European composers, using their work as a way to reflect on how cultures within Europe have interacted with those of elsewhere.

Works by composers including Ligeti, Berio, Stockhausen, Liszt, Messiaen, Strauss, Bartók, and Nono will be featured alongside performances devoted to historic musical traditions from different parts of the world, including medieval temple music from China, classical music from India, Spanish colonial and flamenco music, spiritual Japanese music from the seventh century and Byzantine choral music.

Performances will take place in settings which encourage visitors to explore the synergies or differences between cultures and across centuries: for example, Japanese orchestral music from the seventh century will be heard among the stone sculptures of Ancient Egypt.

Performers include the London Sinfonietta, Ensemble für Intuitive Musik Weimar, Accademia del Piacere, Zhang Jun and his Kunqu Ensemble, Kaushikiji Charkraborty and Ensemble, and Reigakusha Ensemble Tokyo.

Hartwig Fischer, director of the British Museum, said: ‘Europe and the world hopes to encourage listening – to others, to ourselves and to the great symphony of cultures represented by the British Museum. With the generous support of the German Foreign Office, these performances will look at the role of Europe, and its relationship with the world. The universality of music reveals connections between cultures across the globe and allows us to explore our shared humanity through the British Museum’s collection.

‘This programming is a new departure for the Museum. As we think about the longer-term uses of the site at Bloomsbury, we can use music to find new ways to explore the spaces that our visitors see each day.’

Daniel Kühnel, the festival’s artistic director, said: ‘The world collections of the British Museum provide extraordinary opportunities for musical performance. Here the material inheritance of the world’s cultures is stored and deciphered, and we are invited to interpret the ways that regions and peoples assert their identities – an endless and urgent task. Here we can use music and performance to tell stories, explore new ideas in a historic setting and explore encounters between cultures.

‘This festival continues the work done in Jerusalem and Dresden exploring paths towards a European identity shaped by a new openness to the world at large.’