The article below appeared in the Albuquerque Journal of March 4, 2010.
by Richard Waugh, Violist, Cleveland Orchestra
From 1987-1990, it was my great honor to serve as assistant principal violist of the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra. I have since moved on to serve as principal violist of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra and am now in my 16th season with the Cleveland Orchestra, an ensemble called by many reviewers as one of the three great orchestras in the world, along with those in Vienna and Berlin. But this is not about me; I am merely mentioning my qualifications for voicing my particular opinion.
After not having heard an NMSO concert in years, I was back in town visiting family and was fortunate enough to attend the Feb. 26 performance. I was deeply moved and impressed by the concert, start to finish.
Bernstein's Chichester Psalms featured the NMSO Chorus. If forced to choose between the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus and the NMSO Chorus, I'd take the one in Albuquerque. The Liebermann Concerto for Flute and Orchestra featured Valerie Potter, the NMSO's principal flute. I have never heard finer flute playing. The Beethoven Symphony No. 3 featured impressive blending, ensemble and intonation in every section of the orchestra. I have performed this piece dozens of times and found Maestro Guillermo Figueroa's interpretation fresh and exciting.
No, I am not a trained music critic. The point I'm trying to make here is about the tremendous quality of what I heard.
What is striking to me is how much the Cleveland Orchestra and the NMSO have in common. Both are composed of world-class musicians who have dedicated their lives to the art of music and to the city in which they live.
The casual listener might be hard-pressed to hear the difference between the two, yet the annual budget of the Cleveland Orchestra is ten times that of the NMSO. Are there NMSO musicians gifted enough to leave and play in major orchestras elsewhere? Absolutely! Yet for the love of Albuquerque, they choose to stay.
Cleveland is referred to as “the mistake by the lake.” Forbes Magazine recently called it the most miserable place to live of all major U.S. cities. Yet with a dwindling population and an exodus of major corporations, the city still supports its beloved orchestra. We are known as the crown jewel of Cleveland.
Right there is where any similarities end.
Why doesn't Albuquerque hold its orchestra in the same high regard? Orchestras are labeled as either “major” or “regional” based upon their annual budgets. The NMSO is a regional orchestra with major-orchestra quality. It deserves the utmost support from us all.
To borrow from Joni Mitchell, an evening spent listening to the NMSO was for me, paradise. I can only hope the citizens of Albuquerque will realize what they've got before its gone.