Review of The Well-Tempered Clavier

This four CD set is as much a showcase for this beautifully voiced and versatile instrument as they are for the genius of JSB … Not only does [Costin's] sensitive and imaginative choice of registrations complement each prelude and fugue admirably but the chapel’s lively acoustic also enhances the overall sound … this new interpretation of the ’48’ will make an excellent addition to any organ enthusiast’s collection.

NZ Organ News
May 2017

Review of The Well-Tempered Clavier

This project has clearly been a labour of love for Robert Costin, and one admires his consistently excellent playing … There are some wonderful colours on these CDs: the Vox Humana in Book 1’s E major Prelude and the Dulcian in Book 1’s B minor Prelude are delightful. Equally enjoyable is the telling use of the Pedal Posaune towards the end of some of the Book 2 fugues … Listening to these CDs has been an invigorating and stimulating experience. Above all, we can rejoice again in the glorious music springing from Bach’s compositional genius.

Christopher Nickol
Gramophone Magazine
April 2017

JS Bach: The Well-Tempered Clavier BWV 846-891 ☆☆☆☆☆

This is an absolutely outstanding set of records which should form part of the library of every enthusiast for Bach's music … Costin's registrations throughout could not be better judged, and the range of timbres available from the Trinity College Metzler Söhne Organ are both fully explored and applied with discretion and apposite musicianship. This is a wonderful set of records, a true achievement of the modern gramophone, and is most enthusiastically recommended. It has been a rare pleasure to review this release.

Robert Matthew-Walker
The Organ Magazine
Feb–Apr 2017

Benjamin Dale: Sonata in D minor for Organ (1900)
edited by Robert Costin
Fitzjohn Music Publications

Here is a truly extraordinary—and most important—contribution to the English Organ Repertoire, and is recommended with all possible enthusiasm … Costin’s editorship is a model of clarity and sympathetic musical judgement, and his introductory notes are invaluable. As a consequence, we must hope that this fine work, unknown and relatively undiscovered for over a century, will come to take its rightful place in the English organ music repertory.

View extracts here.

Robert Matthew-Walker
The Organ Magazine
Nov 2016–Jan 2017

Bach's Trio Sonatas ☆☆☆☆☆

Robert Costin's new record is highly successful. The Six Trio Sonatas conveniently 'fit' a CD, so it is valuable to have them 'all in one place' so to speak, more so in such well-conceived and executed performances as these. In terms of tempos and registration, I have no complaint, but what makes this recording additionally stand out is Costin's admirable phrasing, which points the nature of Bach's invention so well.

James Palmer
The Organ Magazine
Winter 2014

Bach's Trio Sonatas

It is rare to find an organ recording that defines each voice as a separate entity as clearly as when performed by individual musicians—but Costin succeeds admirably in doing this. The ever important feeling of dance in the music of Bach is present throughout. The quality of the audio recording and production is equally superb— the balance of direct sound from the organ to the acoustics of the room is perfectly judged … In writing this I tried hard to find some fault— no matter how small—to make this review more balanced. The best I can say is that the performances are not perfect and air-brushed recordings—but this only makes them in turn feel more intimate, exhilarating and impassioned. I heartily recommend this CD—even if you already own numerous recordings of these works!

Richard Apperley
NZ Organ News
December 2014

Bach's Trio Sonatas

This superb recording might be considered as Cambridge’s equivalent of Robert Quinney’s acclaimed recording of these pieces at The Queen’s College, Oxford. Costin’s playing is consistently excellent; articulation is clear and sensitive, tempi finely balanced, and the character of each movement is beautifully conveyed. Quick movements sparkle with energy and wit, while the slow movements have a gentle but insistent quality that holds the listener’s attention throughout … The Pembroke College organ is an inspired choice; the clarity and brightness of its flue stops suits the fast movements superbly, while the judicious use of the tremulant in some slow movements is most effective. Overall, the organ has a gentleness that helps capture the intimacy of these wonderful works.

Martin Clarke
Organists’ Review
Dec 2014

Bach's Trio Sonatas

Bach’s Trio Sonatas, written for Wilhelm Friedemann to instruct him in organ playing and composition, demand equality and independence of hands and feet if their musical riches are to be fully realised. This, Costin largely achieves with a strong and sensitive interpretation. I found this a most enjoyable performance.

The Organ Club

Bach's Trio Sonatas ☆☆☆☆

This [performance] is most enjoyable and catches the spirit of this music very well. Robert Costin generally chooses lively tempi and often sparkling registrations for outer movements, with good clarity and balance … slow movements use the beautiful flutes of the Pembroke organ … Excellent recording quality and notes … this disc certainly demonstrates his fine musicianship.

Douglas Hollick
Choir and Organ
Nov/Dec 2014

Bach Goldberg Variations

On this recording British organist Robert Costin, a graduate of the University of Cambridge, plays them brilliantly on the Pembroke College Organ … At the beginning, Costin plays the aria softly with studied detail, letting Pembroke’s acoustics waft the sound to our ears. Then he cuts loose and lets the catchy rhythm of the first variation bound across to us. Each of Bach’s variations is unique, and Costin plays all of them with a wide range of tempos, musical color, and dynamics. In the slower variations, we can let the cool, green, and violet tones of this historic organ cleanse our aural palates before we listen to the more highly decorated variations at which Costin also excels … I really enjoyed the Stone Records disc and I think our readers will as well.

Maria Nockin
Fanfare Magazine
December 2013

Bach Goldberg Variations, BWV 988

It is perhaps surprising that the Goldberg's are not performed on the organ more often. Robert Costin certainly persuades us that they should be … As a performance, it is without fault … All in all, a superb recording which may become my default Goldberg.

Barnaby Page
Organists' Review
December 2013

Bach Goldberg Variations ☆☆☆☆

The Goldberg's on organ are often not convincing, but Costin manages to produce a very compelling and musical interpretation, with some ravishing sounds from the Pembroke organ. This is certainly the best I have heard on the organ, underlining the closeness of organ and harpsichord for Bach, and strongly recommended.

Douglas Hollick
Choir and Organ
Nov/Dec 2013

Great Goldbergs natural fit for organ ☆☆☆☆☆

Bach was a fine organist so surely he would have expected the Goldbergs to be performed on the organ, and Robert Costin proves that it works extremely well. The crispness one gets from the harpsichord is not there but it rarely seems to matter. 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 organ sounding superb, Costin's registrations very convincing and the sound extremely natural, this is, for all Bach lovers, a self-recommending release.

John Button
The Dominion Post
27th August 2013

J S Bach: Goldberg Variations BWV 988 ☆☆☆☆☆

This is a remarkably successful record … The clarity of [Costin's] playing is admirable, as is the recording quality. All in all, a fascinating and, in its way, important release.

Robert Matthew-Walker
The Organ Magazine
Aug–Oct 2013

Album review: Robert Costin, Bach: Goldberg Variations (Stone) ☆☆☆☆☆

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.

Andy Gill
The Independent
2nd August 2013

Robert Costin's rewarding organ exploration of the Goldberg Variations
TGIF recital at St Paul’s Cathedral, Wellington
Robert Costin (organ)
Bach’s Goldberg Variations – a selection

The charm of this performance lay in the enjoyment of the taste and skill of an organist who was clearly fully familiar with and in such full command of the instrument that he could have transformed music of much less intrinsic beauty and profundity into a totally rewarding experience.

Lindis Taylor
'Middle C' Classical Music Reviews
26th July 2013

The Excellent Art of Voluntary

Costin's playing is honest and stylistically sensitive … it sounds fresh, engaging and well-matched to the ringing acoustics of Wren's chapel.

Choir and Organ
Nov/Dec 2012

The Excellent Art of Voluntary

Works of composers ranging from Orlando Gibbons (1583–1625) to Stanley (1712–1786) are delicately exhibited on Pembroke Cambridge's Mander organ, all of which marry well … The works presented are all well known and well loved … All registrations are wholly appropriate and beautiful. The most admirable areas of this release are Boyce's Trumpet Voluntary in D major, and also Henry Purcell's Voluntary for Double Organ (Z719).

Edward Dean
The Organ Magazine
Autumn 2011

The Excellent Art of Voluntary - Robert Costin at Pembroke College, Cambridge

I consider this to be an excellent offering which gives us some neglected repertoire played and recorded to high standards. I'm sure many of us have some of these works in our music collections, but how often do we look at it and think 'Oh I won't play that—it doesn't have pedals'? Well we should do so no more and Robert Costin and Atoll Ltd are to be congratulated on their decision to record this disk. Thoroughly recommended.

Peter Stockwell
September 2011

The Excellent Art of Voluntary

An excellent survey of 17th and 18thC British organ music, the earlier pieces built on the severe contrapuntal style of inheritance of Elizabethan/Jacobean fantasy. There are also famous, popular miniatures by Jeremiah Clarke, long thought to be by Purcell. The Pembroke instrument is entirely suitable and is well played and recorded.

Peter Grahame Woolf
Musical Pointers
September 2011

The Excellent Art of Voluntary

This is a very nicely presented and well-played disc which throws a welcome light on a much underrated area of the organ repertoire. For many, hearing such popular pieces as Jeremiah Clarke's Trumpet Tune or The Prince of Denmark's March in something very like their original guise will come as a shock, shorn as they are of harmonic filling or lavish ornamentation, but the clean lines and fresh-faced feel to Costin's performances makes for an absolutely charming listening experience. The intimacy of the music is nicely reflected in Atoll's clean-cut and direct recorded sound.

Marc Rochester
International Record Review
September 2011

The Excellent Art of Voluntary

The music is heard here on a suitably scaled organ, well recorded in a clear but not dry acoustic. It is played with good style and musicianship.

Christopher Howell
MusicWeb International
July 2011

The Excellent Art of Voluntary

 A comprehensive playlist of the most influential and renowned English composers of the period, this is a CD I'd thoroughly recommend for its performances with huge technical polish and panache.

Nicholas Grigsby
The Critic's Chair, Radio New Zealand
Sunday 26 June & Friday 1 July 2011

Organ concert triumph of style and substance

Some may have heard Guilmant's First Symphony for Organ and Orchestra last year at the launch of the refurbished Town Hall instrument but, thanks to Robert Costin's bold, forthright registrations, the work rang anew.

It was thrill-a-minute stuff. Pedal lines occasionally made one worry for the structural wellbeing of the building, although Costin brought forth subtler tinctures for softer passages, particularly with reeds.

Walker and his players were willing accomplices in reviving this immensely entertaining and flamboyant dinosaur.

William Dart
Weekend Herald
Saturday April 16th 2011

Liszt: Fantasia and Fugue on Ad nos, ad salutarem undam S259
Reubke: Sonata on the 94th Psalm
Robert Costin, organ of Wellington Town Hall, New Zealand


Robert Costin shows himself to be a player in total technical command, as well as being a searching and impressive interpreter whose registration and sense of dramatic juxtaposition in these major works reveal a very gifted musician. The recording quality is very successful indeed, and all in all this CD is most strongly recommended. One looks forward to further explorations of repertoire from this period by this artist.

Robert Matthew-Walker
The Organ Magazine
Winter 2010

Liszt & Reubke Review

Costin controls the tempo very well in Ad Nos, with an energetic opening and a very subdued and leisurely adagio section. Both compositions are performed intelligently and with musicality.

Donald Metz
American Record Guide
November 2009

Robert Costin at the Wellington Town Hall
Liszt and Reubke organ works

Costin’s skilful manipulation of the organ’s amazing colouristic variety is again a feature in this work — after the opening movement’s dramatic exposition, the central Adagio’s long-breathed themes seem at times the stuff of dreams, with Reubke’s explorations taking this listener’s sensibilities to far-off realms of feeling and imagination.

The contrast with the stern, imposing outer-movement frameworkings is stunningly delivered here, unerringly caught by Wayne Laird’s wide-ranging and beautifully-focused Atoll recording. I feel the disc will be an ear-opener for those concert-goers who, over the years, have often gazed upon the resplendent construction of the Town Hall organ, wondering “how it sounds”. Now’s their chance to find out just what the grand old instrument can do.

Peter Mechen
Middle C No 4 Part 1
/May 2009

Liszt & Reubke MusicWeb Review

Virtuoso English organist Robert Costin presents two great mid-19th German classics from Liszt and Reubke on the magnificent romantic symphonic organ of Wellington Town Hall, New Zealand … In these scores by Liszt and Reubke, the assured Costin avoids the temptation to rush giving the music ample time to breath. Displaying consummate control he expertly demonstrates the range and luxuriant tone colours of the Norman and Beard organ at Wellington.

Michael Cookson
MusicWeb International
May 2009

Liszt & Reubke CD

The pairing on disc of Reubke’s only major work for organ with Liszt’s great Fantasy on a theme from Meyerbeer’s Le Prophète makes good sense … [Costin] is certainly not short in either work on technical bravura or breadth of vision…As an interpretation this is certainly a strong performance, re-creating much of the visionary impact of Reubke’s depiction of verses from Psalm 94 … Costin throws all caution to the wind in a brilliant virtuoso account of the Sonata’s concluding Fugue.

Marc Rochester
International Record Review
February 2009

Liszt & Reubke Organ Works played by Robert Costin at Wellington Town Hall Organ

I find this to be an excellent CD and I thoroughly commend it as a fine example of massive organ repertoire played very convincingly on one of the jewels in New Zealand's crown of superb heritage organs. Robert Costin, Wayne Laird of Atoll and other contributors are to be congratulated for this.

Peter Stockwell
NZ Organ News

Recital review, Saint Thomas Church Fifth Avenue, New York, 6.4.2008

The prize of the afternoon went to Herbert Howells' Partita … The tense "Finale and Retrospect" has phrases that erupt like shafts of sunlight, dimming to whispers before the fortissimo ending. Costin's intensity in the final pages was absolutely breathtaking.

Bruce Hodges
Seen and Heard International
April 2008

Howells Organ Music

The Partita, Howells's "last major work," was the most impressive piece here … I found it compelling. Its Intrata is gritty and meaty. Its Interlude is quiet, mysterious, and even haunting, rising to a strong, even dissonant summit. Its third movement is fleet and gripping … Robert Costin showcases the range and sonic pallet of the organ of the Town Hall in Dunedin, New Zealand. It sounds wonderful … The recording quality is excellent. Recommended.

Fanfare Magazine
Jan/Feb 2008

Howells Organ Music

Accolades to Robert Costin for his impeccable playing, subtle judgement of phrasing, beautifully controlled structural ebb and flow and apt registration throughout the performances. This CD is a triumph.

Roy Tankersley
NZ Organ News
August 2007

Howells Organ Music

The organ music of Herbert Howells has been so well served on disc in the past few decades that it is no longer a rarity to encounter it in the record catalogues, but few CDs approach the excellence of performance of this issue from the New Zealand company Atoll. It is first-class in every respect, from the choice of repertoire to the depth of understanding given to this music by Robert Costin, who exhibits an intensity and admirable sense of forward momentum in his playing especially in the Rhapsody that should certainly not be taken for granted. His insight into this music is complete, which is exceptional in having been written over a 54-year period. The fine performance of the Rhapsody is followed by a thrilling account of the mighty Second Sonata, probing and compelling music which finds Costin fully understanding of its great lines in the first two movements the first-movement coda is superbly done and consistently of its character, especially in the rhythmic organisation in the finale. The recording is very good, at times outstandingly so … this is an excellent disc which would make a very good introduction to Howells's organ music.

Robert Matthew-Walker
International Record Review
March 2007

Howells Organ Music

Robert Costin has chosen his organ well, an English touring organ of plain-speaking reeds that eventually fetched up in the unclouded space of Dunedin Town Hall. This is Howells, but not as you know him, virile and dramatic.

Choir and Organ Magazine
March/April 2007

Howells Organ Music

Costin makes a fabulous job of the Organ Sonata No. 2, maintaining interest for the whole of its twenty-nine-plus minutes with masterly control of registration and impetus. The contrasting moods of the opening Vivo are perfectly judged, and Costin conveys the long-arch-like span of the slow movement. He also sustains wonderfully the excitement and, to an extent, tension of the concluding Allegro assai. By any standards this is a most arresting performance of one of Howells' finest compositions.

Organ Magazine
November 2006

On track: A celebration of the organ's thunder and fury

The first movement of the sonata is a real thunderer, yet the second movement looks towards the pastoral simplicity of the English folksong. Costin has the measure of both to perfection … Don't wait to chase up this CD.

William Dart
New Zealand Herald
August 2 2006