VICTOR TOGNI (1935-1965)
First prize improvisation contest - Casavant prize,
A.G.O. Convention, Philadelphia 1964
Premier prix de virtuosite, Geneva Conservatory 1963
First prize Rochette improvisation contest, Geneva 1963
Prix Otto Barblan, Geneva 1963
ARCM London, England
Maestro Santa Cecilia Conservatory, Rome
Victor Togni was born on the Ides of March in Tanganyika (East Africa, now Tanzania) of Swiss parents. His musical studies were begun at the Abbey of Einsiedeln in Switzerland and continued at the Santa Cecilia Conservatory in Rome, the Ecole Normale de musique and the National Conservatory in Paris, the Royal College of Music in London, England and the Geneva Conservatory. His teachers included Fernando Germani, Olivier Messiaen, Marcel Dupre, Rolande Falcinelli, Jean Langlais and Jean Jacques Grunenwald.
During his short life Victor received several scholarship prizes for organ and improvisation from the association of Swiss musicians, a full scholarship from the Geneva Conservatory of Music and a government grant.
After attending a master class at the Geneva Conservatory for a year (classe Grunenwald), he was awarded the First Prize for Virtuosity in organ performance and improvisation, the First Prize of the Rochette improvisation competition, and the Otto Barblan organ prize.
On June 26th, 1964 Mr. Togni won first prize (with a unanimous decision) in Improvisation at the Convention of the American Guild of Organists, held in Philadelphia, where 2,000 organists gathered from the United States, Canada and Mexico. Maurice Durufle was on the panel of judges. It was the first time that an improvisation competition of this kind was sponsored in America. The first prize was donated by the Casavant organ building firm of St. Hyacinthe, Quebec.
Victor Togni's reputation as a performer and improviser gained international recognition through his many recitals and broadcasts in cities of Europe, Africa, England, the United States and Canada, where he was a frequent recitalist in musical centres and for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Victor was also the conductor of the National Youth Orchestra in Switzerland.
In 1958, at age 23, he was a featured recitalist at the National Convention of the RCCO in Ottawa.
In 1963 Victor and Don Aldo Lanini, the parish priest in Magadino, Switzerland, along with Carlo Florindo Semini of Swiss Radio Lugano, organized an International Organ Festival. In July of that same year he had the honour to perform in the company of two of his teachers, Dupre and Germani at the first international organ festival of Magadino, Switzerland. He was scheduled to return in 1966 to open the festival. This international festival celebrated it's 25th anniversary in 1988.
In Europe Victor was organist of Rome's St. Gregory's Basilica and of the Lugano Cathedral. He was organist of the Calvin United Church in Pembroke, First Baptist Church in Ottawa and St. Columkille's Roman Catholic Cathedral in Pembroke, Ontario. In 1960 he was appointed organist at St. Basil's church of St. Michael's College, Toronto, and professor of organ and improvisation at St. Michael's Cathedral Choir School. In 1963, he was appointed organist of Toronto's St. Michael's Cathedral a position he held until his death.
Victor gave several inaugural organ recitals. Among them were St. Mary's Cathedral in Calgary, Alberta, St. Mark's in Sudbury, Ontario and the Cathedral of St. Paul, Minnesota.
On March 29, 1965, Victor was on his way to Montreal to record a recital for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation when the car in which was riding with his producer was hit by a transport truck near Gananoque, Ontario, and he was killed.
Victor Togni was fluent in six languages. He was first an organist, composer, conductor, improviser and harpsicordist. He had passion for jazz and would often play, or listen, the night away and in a public venue, if asked, would be happy to oblige with a tune or two or three...,
What always touches me again and again as I read through all the papers and letters was the tremendous love and respect people had for him as a person, which only served to enhance his music. Victor had a great sense of humour and was always ready with a joke or anecdote.
The musical world suffered a great loss with his passing and still today he is remembered with great respect and love. It was a privilege to have known and loved him and shared a life with him however brief and I am so thankful that he passed my way and did not pass me by.
A quote from a newspaper clipping:
"This recital was truly inspiring; in fact long before it was over, I had given up taking the details of his playing apart and was permitting myself the luxury of simple and confident enjoyment - the response that great music, well performed, is after all, fundamentally supposed to induce."
Victor married a Canadian and their son Peter-Anthony is the current host of the CBC's national music program ‘Weekender'. Peter-Anthony is also a gifted musician as composer, organist, improviser and jazz man.
There are two published works:
The Five Liturgical Inventions for Organ - Warner Chappell and
The Alleluia! – Choir a cappella SAATBB – Gordon V. Thompson Music
Margaret Togni Fox
Audio clips from Victor Togni