Artist Series performance

Unrau to be featured with Lima Symphony

When Crafton Beck, conductor of the Lima Symphony Orchestra, asked Dr. Lucia Unrau what piano concerto she would like to perform with the orchestra as guest artist in this winter’s “Mozart by Candlelight” concert, “I had a few in mind,” she says.

But one in particular “has been one of my favorites,” the Bluffton University professor adds, since a friend had her listen to it when they were undergraduates at the Oberlin Conservatory.

So Beck’s choice of that work — Piano Concerto No. 21 in C, K. 467 — over another possibility offered by Unrau “made me extremely happy,” she admits.

Unrau, who chairs both the music department and the communication and fine arts division at Bluffton, will present the piece with the orchestra twice this month. The first performance of “Mozart by Candlelight” will be at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 23, in Bluffton’s Yoder Recital Hall, as part of the university’s Artist Series.

The concert, which also includes the overture to “The Shepherd King,” Horn Concerto No. 1 in D and the Haffner Symphony, will be presented again on Saturday, Jan. 25, also at 7:30 p.m., at Trinity United Methodist Church in Lima. 

Tickets for the Bluffton Artist Series performance may be purchased online at http://tickets.bluffton.edu, or by calling 419-358-3350. Reserved seats are $25 for adults, $20 for senior citizens and non-Bluffton students and $10 for children ages 6-13.

The campus performance is also this year’s Pearl Bogart Mann Memorial Piano Recital at Bluffton. The annual recital is partially funded through an endowment established in memory of Mann, who taught applied piano at Bluffton for nearly 50 years.

Unrau has taught piano at Bluffton since 1994. A few years later, when he came to Lima, she met Beck, who called her last spring to say “we need you to play with us,” she recalls.

Her months of preparation for the upcoming performances began with spending “a lot” of time listening to the music—often while running—to learn the orchestra part. She also did musical analyses and practiced the piece in her head as well as on the piano.

The process also included historical research. Through that study, she learned that the roughly 30-minute concerto she will play wasn’t the only one Mozart was working on in 1785. “What’s interesting about this is he wrote three piano concertos at the same time,” Unrau says. In addition, she discovered that two of the melodic themes in the first movement of Concerto No. 21 in C also appear in a symphony and a horn concerto by Mozart, requiring that she listen to them as well.

Unrau compares learning a piece of music to constructing a building, noting that both a building’s structure and a musician’s technique must be sound. “If there’s a weakness in that structure, it might come down, and that’s what you’re trying to avoid,” she says. Once the structure is in place, the building can be decorated, as can a musical work, she continues, explaining that a concert pianist doesn’t play Mozart the same way as music by Chopin.

While she can memorize a piece fairly quickly, she says, she also wants to learn how it was “built” before performing it. “I wouldn’t want to perform it without doing more work,” she adds.

In addition to performing—and making recordings—both solo and collaboratively, Unrau regularly serves as an adjudicator and presents clinics, workshops, master classes and at conferences. She is a former president of the Ohio Music Teachers Association and was its Collegiate Teacher of the Year in 2009.

She earned her doctor of musical arts degree from the University of Texas-Austin in 1992 and, the following year, joined the summer piano faculty at the Interlochen (Mich.) Arts Camp. In 2005, she became keyboard area coordinator at Interlochen, where she designs and oversees the keyboard curriculum, secures piano faculty members, evaluates audition tapes and collaborates with other arts areas at the camp.

-B-