We live in very connected times. Information and access to it is so easy. Streaming live performances can be viewed from almost anywhere, and a musician can hear what a performer is doing from another country almost instantly. The availability of recorded music has helped introduce new musicians to the public, and made the new compositions of composers much more widespread.
This fact probably explains to some degree the increase in the technical levels of most professional musicians, and not just from your local area, but also as compared to performers of your instrument everywhere. Unfortunately, I’m not sure that musicianship in general has increased as much, but there is always hope.
Like many professional musicians, I have an extensive record and CD collection. I used to be able to listen to the radio or a recording, and without looking, I could tell you where the orchestra was from, just listening to the wind players because national and regional styles were so distinct. This is no longer the case.
The great orchestras of the world, like Berlin, Vienna, Concertgebouw and Dresden Statskapelle still sound very distinct, but so many other orchestras seem so much more “generic”. I find this disappointing. Too much music these days sounds like it came out of a blender. When auditioning for an orchestral position, applicants don’t seem to want to offend anyone’s sensibilities by committing to a particular approach or point of view about the music. They don’t want to show too much about what they are about, if in fact they do have an opinion at all.
Pascal Gallois mentioned recently in his book, The Techniques of Bassoon Playing, the recent winners of auditions have much more of a musical personality or style than the other candidates. He viewed this as a good sign.
I hope that national styles will not disappear. It appears that many still remain, if not as pronounced as before. The Viennese players are still using their own unique instruments, and I don’t expect that to change. However, I would welcome other regions to begin to preserve and develop their own approaches. All the great orchestras do, and I hope that continues.