(...) For Hartmut Haenchen is a name to remember, as the conductor's splendid TS sally demonstrated. His vehicle was Mahler's Symphony No. 5 in C sharp minor, a huge troublesome deed of music that includes some of the most acutely ambivalent pages Mahler ever wrote. That quality of almost ferocious unease is the hard fist inside the soft glove of the famous Adagietto.
It was something that Haenchen explicated tirelessly, particularly in the second movement. It would be tough to better the combination of patience, precision and sheer bloody-minded implacability with which he probed this music, so that one could almost feel the cold sweat oozing out of its pores. Here was all the quaking logic of Mahler's fractured, "modern" idiom: memory as a prison, escape as a trap, so that by the time the brasses sounded the bold chorale near the end, there was no mistaking the fatal instability of even this affirmation.
There were many other things to admire beyond this outstanding second movement essay, such as the carefully calibrated extremes of the symphony's beginning. An explosion, and then a collapse into a withdrawn, crumpled grace - that was the opening of the first movement, through which Haenchen walked the razor's edge with Mahler; the one separating his particular brand of tragic pathos from the sloppy sentiment of a cabaret song. (...)
The Toronto Symphony had a (...) more wholesome sound than in some of last season's big-ticket ventures. It was sometimes hard to believe that this was the same outfit that produced the bloated excesses of the most recent Mahler at RTH, the Symphony No. 8 of last April. In the fifth movement they worked hard to strain the fat out of Mahler's rather earnest counterpoint, and the strings generally avoided spreading into the fibrous tone that too often dissipated their strength last year. (...)
(...) Noda can come back any time he likes, which goes double for Haenchen.