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JS Bach: Goldberg Variations

Internationally renowned organist Robert Costin performs the much-loved Goldberg Variations (1741) on the organ of Pembroke College, Cambridge – a modern reconstruction of a period instrument (dating from 1708).


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Related Artists: Robert Costin

Catalogue Number: 5060192780291


Though nowadays played on all manner of instruments, from harp to accordion, the Goldberg Variations was originally written for harpsichord. However, hearing this masterful performance by Robert Costin on the Pembroke College organ, it’s impossible to imagine that Bach, an accomplished organist, didn’t compose it on such an instrument. Right from the wistful charm of the opening “Aria”, the organ’s timbre is a model of acoustical grace, a perfect union of instrument and space, and as Costin launches into the Variations, its full majesty is revealed in rich, satisfying sonorities that build to an epic climax with the “Variatio 30 –Quodlibet”. A marvellous, engrossing performance by a true master. ***** (Independent)

Organist Robert Costin is well known here in New Zealand and, indeed he has been here recently playing the Goldberg Variations on organs around the country. And here is the recording he made of Bach’s great work in 2012 on the organ of Pembroke College, Cambridge. We have recordings of the Goldberg Variations on the harpsichord, modern piano, strings, jazz group and even with a consort of viols, but none, as far as I can see, on the organ. Given that Bach was a fine organist surely he would have expected the Goldbergs to be performed on the instrument, and Robert Costin proves that it works extremely well. Yes, the crispness one gets from the harpsichord is not there ( but neither is it on any of the string arrangements ), but it rarely seems to matter. In short, this great set of variations sounds as natural on the organ as any of the works that Bach composed for the instrument. With the Pembroke College organ sounding superb and with Costin’s registrations sounding very convincing and the sound extremely natural,  this is, for all Bach lovers, a self recommending release. ***** (The Dominion)

This is a remarkably successful record … The clarity of the playing is admirable, as is the recording quality. All in all, a fascinating and, in its way, important release. ***** (Organ Magazine)

All in all, a superb recording which may become my default Goldberg (Organists’ Review)

On this recording, British organist Robert Costin, a graduate of the University of Cambridge, plays them brilliantly on the Pembroke College Organ … I really enjoyed the Stone Records disc and I think our readers will as well (Fanfare)

If you want a Goldberg recording, you’ll be spoilt for choice – there are dozens. And you have a wide choice of instruments: harpsichord or piano (the leaders) but also harp; saxophone quartet; string trio; jazz trio; marimba; accordion; and a few organ recordings – by Catherine Ennis, Jean Guillou, Elena Barshai, and now Robert Costin, Director of Music at Ardingly College. Costin plays the Pembroke College, Cambridge, organ, a period instrument containing some Father Smith pipework and reconstructed by Mander in 1980. It is eminently suited to the repertoire. Helped by a sympathetic acoustic, Costin delivers a sensitive and accomplished performance, making this recording a strong contender in a crowded field. (Organ Club)

Track listing
  1. Aria
  2. Variatio 1 (a 1 Clav.)
  3. Variatio 2 (a 1 Clav.)
  4. Variatio 3 – Canone all’unisono (a 1 Clav.)
  5. Variatio 4 (a 1 Clav.)
  6. Variatio 5 (a 1 o vero 2 Clav.)
  7. Variatio 6 – Canone alla seconda (a 1 Clav.)
  8. Variatio 7 – Al tempo di giga (a 1 o vero 2 Clav.)
  9. Variatio 8 (a 2 Clav.)
  10. Variatio 9 – Canone alla terza (a 1 Clav.)
  11. Variatio 10 – Fughetta (a 1 Clav.)
  12. Variatio 11 (a 2 Clav.)
  13. Variatio 12 – Canone alla quarta
  14. Variatio 13 (a 2 Clav.)
  15. Variatio 14 (a 2 Clav.)
  16. Variatio 15 – Andante – Canone alla quinta (a 1 Clav.)
  17. Variatio 16 – Ouverture (a 1 Clav.)
  18. Variatio 17 (a 2 Clav.)
  19. Variatio 18 – Canone alla sesta (a 1 Clav.)
  20. Variatio 19 (a 1 Clav.)
  21. Variatio 20 (a 2 Clav.)
  22. Variatio 21 – Canone alla settima
  23. Variatio 22 – Alla breve (a 1 Clav.)
  24. Variatio 23 (a 2 Clav.)
  25. Variatio 24 – Canone all’ottava (a 1 Clav.)
  26. Variatio 25 – Adagio (a 2 Clav.)
  27. Variatio 26 (a 2 Clav.)
  28. Variatio 27 – Canone alla nona (a 2 Clav.)
  29. Variatio 28 (a 2 Clav.)
  30. Variatio 29 (a 1 o vero 2 Clav.)
  31. Variatio 30 – Quodlibet (a 1 Clav.)
  32. Aria da capo