Must-see exhibitions for music lovers

  • 12 June 2013

Love music? Visit these musical marvels to discover how Blake influenced Britten, see some of history's finest instruments, and explore how music has inspired art from the Dutch Golden Age to contemporary Britain.

1. Vermeer & Music: The Art of Love and Leisure, National Gallery
50% off with National Art Pass

The Dutch Golden Age conjures up images of masterpieces by Rembrandt and Frans Hals, but music was every bit as important to everyday life in the Golden Age as the visual arts. This exhibition brings together paintings by Vermeer, De Hooch and others alongside songbooks and instruments from the era to show the relationship between art, music and society.

2. Cantus Arcticus, Waddesdon
Free with National Art Pass

Best known for his lighting installations, British artist Bruce Munro took inspiration from Finnish composer Einojuhani Rautavaara's Concerto for Birds and Orchestra for his most recent work at Waddesdon. The concerto's bird motifs are echoed in the use of bird forms made from fibre-optic cables, which change colour in response to the music.

3. Stradivarius, Ashmolean Museum
50% off with National Art Pass

The 18th-century luthier Antonio Stradivari is synonymous with some of the greatest instruments ever made, and this exhibition brings together 20 of his finest surviving works. From a recreation of his workshop to the Ashmolean's own 'Messiah' violin, visitors will be able to follow the craftsman's process from timber to timbre. 

4. Poetry in Sound: The Music of Benjamin Britten, British Library
Free to all

One of Britain's most important composers, Benjamin Britten drew inspiration not only from his fellow musicians, but also from the poetry of writers as diverse as William Blake, Alfred Lord Tennyson and WH Auden. The British Library unites manuscripts of Britten's most celebrated compositions with the literature that inspired him, exploring how poetry shaped the world of his music.