Once again, we’re in one of those global periods of nationalism. The anxiety of identity, as emigrants from one part of the world enter another, as individuals empower themselves by practicing identity politics, is a great issue of our day.
Music can help, as even a seemingly innocuous and poorly attended concert by the Los Angeles Philharmonic at Walt Disney Concert Hall showed Friday night. The conductor, Stéphane Denève, and the soloist, pianist Jean-Yves Thibaudet, were French, yet as personalities as different as they are alike.
The concert contained two French pieces, Fauré’s Suite from “Pelléas et Mélisande,” a work so pleasantly genial and well known that it no longer signifies a national style. The other, Debussy’s “La Mer,” however, was crucial in defining French music for the 20th century.
The news of this St. Patrick’s Day night happened to be the West Coast premiere of a recent piano concerto of an avid Scottish separatist, James MacMillan. The concert began with the Passacaglia from Benjamin Britten’s “Peter Grimes,” a landmark in liberating the identity of British opera.