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A quick end to labor dissonance at the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra lets the concert season start on a decidedly upbeat note tonight. Musicians and orchestra management alike deserve credit for finding a quick contract solution.

Despite the loss of a planned local telecast to contract uncertainties, work by both sides cleared the way for the long-awaited debut of the BPO's new musical director. Fans of the Philharmonic can now look forward this evening to "ushering in the JoAnn Falletta years with this orchestra," as Executive Director Lawrence A. Ribits put it.

But by no means is the job of saving the orchestra and burnishing its reputation done. Although it is on far safer financial footing than it was just a few years ago and it remains well-regarded musically, it is both poorer and smaller than it should be.

Both the orchestra management and the musicians want to see salaries reach the national standard of $40,000. The compromise reached this week still doesn't quite do that, and a good part of the boost to about $38,000 comes in the later years of the pact.

But there was no money to increase the size of the orchestra, which has dwindled through the years from 87 to 72 musicians. More community patronage and support is needed, before Falletta gains a wider aural palette for her artistry and labor contracts move beyond economic fairness and into improvements to orchestral quality.

The Philharmonic is a civic cultural treasure, and community support must not falter. To ensure that it doesn't, management must continue its efforts to promote the orchestra and its music and, especially, to pull in the cash to continue its economic recovery.

This week's quick resolution of a contract impasse offers hope that can be done. Tonight's opening already is a triumph, before the music even begins.

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