Specifically, we comemmorate the birth of Johann Sebastian Bach upon the twenty-first of March and perhaps within the confines of the art of the organ we might allow ourselves the luxury of hyperbole in saluting Bach as representing the zenith of this great art's long history.
That we can confidently state such a thing is at once to give honour where it is more than just due, but it is also, in some other ways, a very sad thing. I doubt if I could, or even should, find the words to delineate Bach's place in the annels of the greatest musicians in history. No organist who has ears to hear can fail to comprehend the monumental scale of his achievement. On the other hand, it can also be said that the history of our art since the great Leipzig cantor has seldom revealed a quality of achievement to compare with him, or to approach somewhere near to it even.
Great composers and musicians there have been (and they are evident throughout music as a whole), who have not contributed to the world of the organ in any way comparable to Johann Sebastian Bach. Inspired bursts of creative genius there has been, music to enliven the soul by the hour too, but never the sustained and fundamental elevation of an art form which indeed is Bach's final consummate achievement.
This curious paradox is an enigma that might not be unravelled for another thousand years, or indeed ever, although for many within our own lifetime the wonderful compositions of Olivier Messiaen may one day come to be seen as burning with the same fire of sublime genius. Perhaps it is also significant that the music of Bach and Messiaen are both suffused with a strong religius motivational force, unparalleled in the organ repertoire.
In honouring Johann Sebastian Bach we rightly honour the unique.
It is an awesome accolade.