When Victor was twenty-five years old, he and his young family moved to Magadino so that he could study improvisation and organ with Jean-Jacques Grunenwald at the Geneva Conservatory. After completing the two year Master-class Course in a single year, 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.
It was 1962, Margaret was twenty-two and Peter-Anthony was two. They travelled from Toronto to Geneva and then through Switzerland trying to locate a place suitable to live on a musician’s budget. They found the beautiful villages of Magadino-Vira. Victor travelled once or twice a week to Geneva Conservatory for lessons with Grunenwald. Quite a trip, particularly in winter when the pass was closed. He would arrive home around 3 in morning.
Don Lanini, pastor at this lovely church of San Carlo Boromeo, became like a brother to Victor and so began the dream to start an International Festival. Margaret met a lady whose friendship she cherishes to this day, Lynette Meschini, the lady with the lovely house on the hill. (After Victor’s death she translated the letters from Don Lanini and Maestro Semini.) Peter-Anthony met a little girl called Toolia at the Asilo. So began their life in Ticino.
“I would come up to the church to see how the practicing was going and would often find Victor in Don Lanini’s office enjoying a glass of “something”, perhaps the good wine in Magadino, and no doubt making plans for the birth of this Festival. I was a tiny bit concerned about organ practice but as we know he took all the prizes at the Conservatory in his classes and continued to do so in America as a virtuoso and improviser.”
“Jean-Jacques Grunenwald, was a real task-master. Victor was working on some facet of improvisation and I guess it wasn’t going very well, as Grunenwald ran down the aisle of the hall crying, “Monsieur Togni, you have met your Waterloo”. At the actual examination, as he started the Bach D Major one of the manuals quit altogether and he quickly had to re-register it on the fly on a different manual.”
The Magadino International Organ Music Festival
In 1963 Victor and Don Aldo Lanini, the parish priest in Magadino, Switzerland, along with Carlo Florindo Semini of Swiss Radio Lugano, Manfredo Patocchi of the Circolo di Cultura, Eros Ratti and Federico Alluisetti 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, Marcel Dupre and Fernando 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 its 25th anniversary in 1988. The brilliant success of that first edition was that the organizers found the motivation and stimulus to continue the experience which has now lasted for almost 53 years.
From the Festival Website about the Organ at St. Charles Boromeo:
In 1965, following the organ festival experience gained, the organ was again transformed by the same artisan family, Mascioni, into a three-manual organ with the insertion of a positive. The pipes – more than 2300 – are arranged on wind-chests contained in the same neoclassical styled case of the first Balbiani organ, continuously enlarged in depth. The organ project was drafted through the collaboration of Mr Viktor Togni, Mr Luigi Favini and Reverend Aldo Lanini.
Victor’s Five Liturgical Inventions will be performed by his son Peter-Anthony in July, 2015 at the 53rd edition of the festival.