Wednesday Noon Hours honours late School of Music Professor with a beautiful and stirring performance

October 14’s Wednesday Noon Hours was a tribute to Hanz-Karl Piltz featuring Marina Thibeault (viola), as well as UBC String Division faculty duo partners David Gillham (violin), Eric Wilson (cello) and Jasper Wood (Violin).

Piltz was not only a musician but he also served in the United States army in the Second World War. Upon coming home from the war, he dedicated himself to the study of viola. After playing first with the principal viola of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and at Northwestern University, he performed as a professional orchestral musician with notable symphonies.

He joined UBC’s Department of Music in 1959, and in that same year he founded and directed the UBC Symphony Orchestra. Though he retired from UBC in 1991, he was still a very important part of keeping music alive in Vancouver, acting as both musician and teacher throughout Vancouver and the Lower Mainland. Piltz passed away earlier this year and this Wednesday’s Noon Hours — a weekly concert livestreamed from the Chan Centre — payed tribute to him.

Kicking off with a land acknowledgment, the show started with a brief slideshow of Piltz’s achievements before the music began. The first piece, Mozart: “Duo in B-flat major for violin and viola, K. 424,” was performed by Thibeault on viola and Gillham on violin. The duo started off slowly, but built up quickly to a faster, louder moment, before melowing back down to a playful melody. When the performance ended, Thibeault revealed it was the first time that she had shared the stage with Gillham.

The second piece, Clarke: “Lullaby and Grotesque for viola and cello,” was performed by Thibeault on viola and Wilson on cello. Thibeault and Wilson briefly spoke about Piltz’s “sweet nature” before getting into the piece. With a soft opening, the piece invited listeners to think back to the “Lullaby” in the title of the piece. Reminiscent of rocking something precious in one’s arms, this piece seemed to encourage listeners to take care of what they hold most dear.

The third, and final piece, Martinu: “Three Madrigals,” was performed by Thibeault on viola and Wood on violin. Thibeault revealed that Martinu was Piltz’ favourite composer and that the piece that would be performed was heavily influenced by folk music. Wood and Thibeault both spoke about how Piltz was always bringing out the best in people and pushed them to do more.

The final piece began with a lot of energy; it seemed as if the two instruments were having a conversation with each other in their own language. Each instrument would say their piece before the two would join together in harmony. This piece definitely lived up to its name, the performance clearly had many different voices to be found within the music.

Not only was the music beautiful and stirring, it also served as a touching and heartfelt tribute to the late Piltz. In the words of Thibeault, it “was a concert he would have liked”.