This review appeared in the Albuquerque Journal of Oct. 18, 1998.
The New Mexico Symphony Orchestra is going to be just fine, thank you, if Saturday night's spirited performance in Popejoy Hall is any index.
Though the musicians might have been reeling earlier in the month over news of the planned departure of their dynamic music director David Lockington, this weekend they responded to associate conductor Roger Melone with renewed passion and professionalism.
The program chosen by Melone turned out to be just the right challenge. It consisted of only two works, Verdi's Four Sacred Pieces and Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony.
Seldom performed, the Verdi pieces find the opera composer applying his theatrical talents to the spiritual realm.
Splendidly prepared by Melone who also serves as their director, the NMSO Chorus plunged into the heady music with an expressive and varied palette. They brought a gentle flow to the simple grace of the unaccompanied ``Ave Maria.'' The operatic tableau of the ``Stabat Mater'' with orchestra was vividly realized. The ``Laudi,'' a hymn of praise to Mary for female chorus alone, received a tender treatment that caught its ethereal nature.
The concluding ``Te Deum'' pulled powerful sounds from both orchestra and chorus in praises to God's majesty. It also brought forth some of the most intricate and intimate music making.
Warmed up by the Verdi, the orchestra and Melone delivered and emotionally charged interpretation of Tchaikovsky's Fifth. Following Melone's clear and fluid direction, the orchestra responded passionately to the music's romantic surges while maintaining strong ensemble discipline.
They also seemed to have locked into their tonal memory the depth of sound they discovered last November in a Rachmaninoff symphony.
It was a triumphant performance. The brass has never sounded fuller, warmer, or more precise. The strings glowed like burnished wood. The woodwinds produced one lovely solo after another. All the principals---flutist Valerie Potter, oboist Darrel Randall, clarinetist Michael Stordahl, bassoonist Stefanie Przybylska and horn player Peter Ulffers---deserve special mention.