What do countries really mean in the world of classical music today? Garrett Harris from the San Diego Reader reviewed Arnaldo Cohen’s recent performance with the San Diego Symphony and began asking himself that question.

The San Diego Symphony put Beethoven and Brahms together on Friday night at Symphony Hall. The Beethoven was his Symphony No. 6: The Pastoral. The Brahms was his Piano Concerto No. 1.

Pianist Arnaldo Cohen was the soloist for the Brahms piano concerto. I initially began to go down the road of saying where he is from and what he has done but does it matter?

On Friday night Mr. Cohen was from wherever Brahms was from, and I don’t mean Germany. The performance and the experience of the music was something finer than countries of origin. It was finer than cultural bias and tradition. Mr. Cohen and Brahms and the orchestra and Maestro Ling all came from the same musical country during the performance.

After the music concluded, the audience continued applauding for so long that Mr. Cohen was forced to play some Chopin for us. Cohen is also from where Chopin was from — not talking about Poland.

I’m starting to question this obsessive need to identify which country everyone comes from. I guess it’s safer and easier to discuss Beethoven being from Germany but living in Austria or Brahms also being German and continuing the tradition of Beethoven. Those topics are in bounds but sharing something intimate about the musical experience usually isn’t.

During the slow movement of the Brahms I became aware that something in the area of my heart was starting to close. I realized that this closing was a familiar feeling and tried to relax and allow it to remain open. It was something of an emotional moment because I recognized that I was only aware of the closing. read more at sandiegoreader.com

In a follow up story, Harris follows this line of thinking even further.

In reviewing the most recent San Diego Symphony concert, I made something of a big deal about countries of origin not being important in classical music. While that is true when it comes to performing or listening to classical music, it is not true when it comes to the composition of classical music — at least in the past. Current composers appear to have abandoned notions of a national sound.

There can be no arguing that many 19th- and early 20th-century composers were trying to capture a national tone. All we need do is look at the titles of some of the pieces, such as Sibelius’s Finlandia, Schumann’s Rhenish Symphony, or Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony.

And closes with the following:

As we move away from nationalism, and I do believe that is happening even if it has slowed down of late, the national identity or context of classical music begins to fade. Even with the threat of nationalism in mind, I argue that once the notes are on the page the country of origin becomes irrelevant.

We can now go to a concert that is more along the lines of humanity experiencing humanity instead of an American audience listening to a Brazilian pianist with an Indonesian conductor performing French music.

Read more at sandiegoreader.com