Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Joannus Tollius

'Quintus' part of 'Zefiro Torna' from the collection 'Madrigali a Sei Voci'

Joannus Tollius (Amersfoort 1550 – Copenhagen 1603) was a classical musician. He was one of the best known composers of his day.

next episode: Crimean war Hussar

He was born in Amersfoort under the name Jan or Johan van Tol. At a relatively young age he became the chappelmaster (musical moderator) in one of the two most important churches in his hometown. Around 1580 he left Amersfoort to seek knowlegde and adventure in Italy, where he served at the cathedral of Rieti.

His unconventional religious notions brought about suspecions of heresy. His short tempered nature resulted sometimes scuffles, for instance in 1598 he fought with the singer Rosetto (both were fined by 5 ducats). A contemporary described him as follows: 'Jo: Tollius Amersfortius Musicus excellens, sed homo famæ sinisterioris'.

He lost his job several times. He joined the Franciscan order and became chappelmaster in Assisi, but he was kicked out a few years later. In 1585 he went to Rome, and in 1589 the Bishop of Padua granted him service in his chapel. Eventually he went to Copenhagen in 1601 to serve in the royal chapel of the Danish King Christian IV, earning an annual salary of 300 
daalders, twice as much as usual.

The vocal music which he composed included both sacred and secular works. They include motets (1590-97) for five voices, and madrigals (1597) for six voices. They are considered to be innovative and unconventional, foreshadowing an early Baroque style.

He never returned to his place of birth. In the preface to his first collection of motets he writes about his feelings of homesickness for Amersfoort.


  1. I love learning about famous Amersfoortians, the town has certainly produced more talented individuals than I would have previously assumed. Rob, I'm also enjoying your little previews at the bottom of your daily posts, it peaks the curiosity.

  2. Thank you Nate. Your comments are (as always) highly appreciated! BTW I hope you don’t feel uneasy living 30 miles (according to this map) away from the famous San Andreas Fault.

  3. Rob, thanks for the concern. The earth doesn't move as often as people outside the area might think. It's not even something one even thinks about. Out in Carrizo Plain in the corner of our county it is easy to see the fault line, but there are not many people who live out there.


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