Victor Togni was born on the ides of March, 1935 in Dar es Salaam, Tanganyika of Swiss parents Antonio and Grace. His life spanned thirty years and was filled to the brim with much travel and study on the European continent and in both Canada and the United States.
Victor loved to travel and would often would stay with relatives in the various cities he traveled to. Victor left Africa at the age of eleven to study music in Switzerland, and had already had the opportunity to conduct the school orchestra in Dar es Salaam, the then capital of Tanganyika, at the age of eight. His musical studies began in earnest at the Abbey of Einsedeln. He studied cello but being left-handed posed problems and he switched to the organ. It was here that he heard many magnificent organs and it was also during this time when his interest in becoming a monk began. He was one notch shy of being a novice by the time he was sixteen but this vocation was short-lived. During his time at the abbey, he studied organ with Father Baptist Bolliger OSB who was a fine improviser and discovered his gift.
When he was nineteen he went to Italy and studied at the Academy of St. Cecilia in Rome with Fernando Germani. Germani was his first mentor. He didn’t like practicing and so he was often found literally tied to the bench by Germani…especially his knees! Peter-Anthony relates a funny story, “which I’m not sure I should tell, but here goes. My Dad told Germani that he was off to practice. Instead he decided to go for a walk and next thing he knew, he saw Germani
heading towards him on the same road. My father ducked into the nearest shop to hide himself. Dad thought that Germani hadn’t spotted him. A tap on the shoulder quickly proved otherwise. Germani exclaimed, “So this is what you do when you are not practicing, you hang out in lingerie shops!”
When Victor was twenty-one he traveled to France to study with Jean Langlais and Marcel Dupré. He studied repertoire and improvisation with both masters and Langlais treated him like a son. He also studied with Rolande Falcinelli. While he studied at the École Normale in Paris he worked with Messiaen. The two of them also got along very well and were close. Victor like Messiaen’s music, but was not as inspired by his improvisations. He also studied theory, composition and analysis for a short time with Nadia Boulanger. He then traveled to the UK to study at the Royal Academy, where he completed his ARCM.
(from reflections of Peter-Anthony Togni and Margaret Togni Fox)