Another diaspora story

A couple of weeks ago I linked to a story about one of the many musicians who formed the great diaspora of Jews from Europe during and after the Nazi era. Here’s another one:

The Lost Cellos of Lev Aronson. Its sounds like the title of one of those wistful, purposely sentimental novels that seem to be pouring out of publishing houses by the barrel-full these days. But, in reality, the work, written by poet Frances Brent, is another heartbreaking Holocaust tale, this time about a real artist who was brutalized by his experiences on several levels, but who, after liberation, managed to reclaim his career and, indeed, triumph. (He became the principal cellist with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and, by all accounts, was also a masterful teacher). Still, none of these accomplishments quite fit the way he’d first envisioned his creative life in Europe, which seemed so promising before the outbreak of World War II.

Aronson, who studied with Gregor Piatigorsky, spent time imprisoned in the Riga ghetto and various brutal camps, but even earlier on in the war, lost his beloved Amati cello, which was confiscated by the authorities in Riga in 1941. This elemental and psychologically devastating loss was just the first of many crimes committed against him, though its long-term effects may have made it the harshest of them all.

Like many another musically gifted Jewish child born in the first half of the 20th century, Aronson longed to study in all the great capitals of the world, and to have performing and teaching careers during which he would interpret the stellar works of the repertory, then pass on this legacy to the next generation. Unfortunately, he was born in 1912, not a fortuitous moment for a Jewish child enamored of Europe’s cultural riches.

About the author

Robert Levine
Robert Levine

Robert Levine has been the Principal Violist of the Milwaukee Symphony since September 1987. Before coming to Milwaukee Mr. Levine had been a member of the Orford String Quartet, Quartet-in-Residence at the University of Toronto, with whom he toured extensively throughout Canada, the United States, and South America. Prior to joining the Orford Quartet, Mr. Levine had served as Principal Violist of The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra for six years. He has also performed with the San Francisco Symphony, the London Symphony of Canada, and the Oklahoma City Symphony, as well as serving as guest principal with the orchestras of Indianapolis and Hong Kong.

He has performed as soloist with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Oklahoma City Symphony, the London Symphony of Canada, the Midsummer Mozart Festival (San Francisco), and numerous community orchestras in Northern California and Minnesota. He has also been featured on American Public Radio's nationally broadcast show "St. Paul Sunday Morning" on several occasions.

Mr. Levine has been an active chamber musician, having performed at the Festival Rolandseck in Germany, the Grand Teton Music Festival, the Palm Beach Festival, the "Strings in the Mountains" Festival in Colorado, and numerous concerts in the Twin Cities and Milwaukee. He has also been active in the field of new music, having commissioned and premiered works for viola and orchestra from Minnesota composers Janika Vandervelde and Libby Larsen.

Mr. Levine was chairman of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians from 1996 to 2002 and currently serves as President of the Milwaukee Musicians Association, Local 8 of the American Federation of Musicians, and as a member of the Board of Directors of the League of American Orchestras. He has written extensively about issues concerning orchestra musicians for publications of ICSOM, the AFM, the Symphony Orchestra Institute, and the League of American Orchestras.

Mr. Levine attended Stanford University and the Institute for Advanced Musical Studies in Switzerland. His primary teachers were Aaron Sten and Pamela Goldsmith. He also studied with Paul Doctor, Walter Trampler, Bruno Giuranna, and David Abel.

He lives with his wife Emily and his son Sam in Glendale.

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