Joannes Tollius (c. 1550-c. 1620) was born in Amersfoort and began his career as music director of the Amersfoort Chapel of Our Lady. He flourished in Italy as maestro di capella of the cathedrals of Rieti (1583-84) and Assisi (1584-86), and as cantor tenorista in Rome (1586-88) and Padua (1588-1601). He ended his career as an exceptionally well-paid singer in the court chapel of Christian IV in Copenhagen (1601-03). In 1590, a collection of three-part motets appeared under the surprising title Motecta de dignitate et moribus sacerdotum (motets about the dignity and morals of priests), presumably intended as a denunciation of the priests who had had him imprisoned in Assisi on charge of heresy, a charge of which Tollius was later acquitted. In 1591, two collections of five-part motets appeared in quick succession. In these motets, Tollius uses techniques of word painting that go significantly further than those used by his contemporaries in sacred music. In 1597, an extended and revised reprint appeared of a collection of six-part madrigals. In his madrigals, Tollius shows himself to be a skilled composer who is in keeping with the madrigal output of his Italian contemporaries.
In 1598, two new madrigals by Tollius appeared in collections of works by Paduan masters, including such great names as Lodovico Viadana and Costanzo Porta. Tollius is unconventional in his compositions. He combines works with an archaic character, with works that fit in prevailing compositional trends, but he also experiments with means that go far beyond what his contemporaries allowed themselves. His oeuvre may be small, but its diversity and quality makes it notable. During his life, Tollius regularly came into conflict with his employers. He was often fined and sometimes even imprisoned. Contemporary accounts of Tollius are contradictory when it comes to his personality, but they are unanimous in recognising that he was a skilled musician.
Simon Groot (1958) studied composition, choral conducting and music theory at Rotterdam Conservatory and musicology at Utrecht University. He is artistic director of the Hemony Ensemble, curator of the historical music collections of the University of Amsterdam and lecturer in Dutch music culture at Utrecht University. His focus is Dutch music of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, both as a researcher and as a performer.