DVORAK: Slavonic Rhapsodies; Symphonic Variations – Prague Philharmonic/ Jacub Hrusa – Pentatone multichannel SACD PTC5186554, 60:28 [Distr. by Naxos] (10/7/16) ***1/2:

Lesser known Dvorak lovingly played and very nicely recorded.

For the third of his three-album series for Pentatone, the young and increasingly popular Jakub Hrusa conducts the Prague Philharmonic in an all-Dvorak program of appealing orchestral works comprising the Symphonic Variations Op. 78 coupled with the lesser known Slavonic Rhapsodies Op. 45, not to be confused with the well known Slavonic Dances. It’s nice to get a release of Dvorak’s non symphonic works, which are very popular, but there was more to the great Czech composer, and people who listen to this disc will agree.

This is a lovely recording, with very nice instrumental positioning in the front channel, while the rears provide ambiance. Massed strings are very clean, and the SACD format renders the strings in a natural stress-free sound. The brass are also quite realistic. The low end is solid in this 5.0 recording.

Hrusa has been a strong advocate of Dvorak, and he’s filling out the catalog nicely. Although these works are not the most familiar of Dvorak’s output, this is a most welcome recording and performance. Although these works have competition on other labels like Naxos, this disc is quite satisfying musically and excellent in audio quality.

—Mel Martin