News
News Home
Quick Bites
Exploradio
News Archive
News Channel
Special Features
NPR
nowplaying
On AirNewsClassical
Loading...
  
School Closings
WKSU Support
Funding for WKSU is made possible in part through support from the following businesses and organizations.

Akron General

Akron Children's Hospital

Hennes Paynter Communications


For more information on how your company or organization can support WKSU, download the WKSU Media Kit.

(WKSU Media Kit PDF icon )


Donate Your Vehicle to WKSU

Programs Schedule Make A Pledge Member BenefitsFAQ/HelpContact Us
Arts and Entertainment


Cleveland Orchestra cellist honors his teacher
Brian Thornton's new CD is a tribute to holocaust survivor Lev Aronson
by WKSU's VIVIAN GOODMAN


Reporter
Vivian Goodman
 
Brian Thornton joined the Cleveland Orchestra cello section 18 years ago at the age of 24. He was 14 when he began studying with Lev Aronson in Dallas.
Courtesy of Vivian Goodman
Download (WKSU Only)
In The Region:
Cleveland Orchestra cellist Brian Thornton this week released a new CD in tribute to his late high-school cello teacher, Lev Aronson. Thornton includes music never before performed that Aronson wrote after escaping from a Nazi concentration camp.
Click to listen

Other options:
Windows Media / MP3 Download (7:34)


Lev Aronson survived four years in the Stutthof concentration camp. During that time he never touched a cello.  

Cleveland Orchestra cellist Brian Thornton says his high school cello teacher didn’t tell him much about his ordeal, but one story sticks with him.

"He was told with three other people to load the back of a truck full of rocks. And then he had to take all the rocks out of the truck. But if they didn’t get it done in an hour they would be killed. So one had to time out an hour in a very precise way.

"So Lev had three cello concertos that he had memorized in his head. He said it was a a Tartini Concerto, a Saint-Saens concerto, and Haydn’s C-Major and as he was singing the concertos, he was timing the loading and unloading of the truck. So he said in that way music saved his life.”

Life and music after Stutthof
After escaping from Stutthof, Aronson wrote and arranged music that Thornton includes on his new CD, along with pieces he studied with his teacher when Thornton was a teenager and Aronson was principal cellist of the Dallas Symphony.

After the war, Aronson earned worldwide renown as a cello teacher. The Cleveland Orchestra’s former principal cellists Lynn Harrell  and Ralph Kirshbaum studied with him, too, but Aronson never became as famous as his Dallas Symphony stand partner, the late Janos Starker.  

"They were good friends until the end of Lev’s life. In a way they were the same type of character: a bit angry but just musically involved in a way that I think really affected all of their students.”  

Thornton’s parents at first hesitated to let their 14-year-old prodigy study with the tempestuous cellist. But Thornton says he never minded when Aronson shouted at him.  

"I think it takes an amazing mentor or a teacher to really push you over the edge. Lev was absolutely that for me.”   

Learning much of the story much later
Aronson died in Dallas 25 years ago. It wasn’t until recently that Thornton learned much more of his mentor’s story.

"I found out from his daughter that he had composed music that had never before been performed or recorded.” 

Aronson adapted many pieces for cello including Ernest Bloch’s “Prayer." Bloch composed it in his last days as the first director of the Cleveland Institute of Music. 

"I wanted to include many aspects of Cleveland on the CD, of course, because that’s where I’ve basically grown up musically. And the Cleveland Institute of Music, that atmosphere there was a big part of my growing into my orchestra position.” 

A solo career cut short
Before the war, Aronson had begun touring in what might have been a promising career as a soloist. In the summer of 1941, the Nazis occupied Finland and took everything from him: his freedom, his family, and his instruments.

"He played a Stradivarius for 10 years ... that was taken away from him suddenly. His Amati and his Torte bow were taken away by the Nazis in Riga.”

Aronson lost 25 family members in the holocaust.

 “The last memory of his sister (was) peering through a chain-link fence and that was the last time he saw her. He spoke about that many, many times.”    

Visual art as well as music
Thornton plays several Aronson compositions on the CD as well as a cello sonata by Patrick Zimmerli commissioned for the recording.

Thornton’s accompanist on "Kol Nidre and Beyond:Lev's Story " is Spencer Myer, a laureate of the Cleveland International Piano Competition.

And there’s a visual element, too, with original art and photography for the CD booklet by Cleveland artists Giancarlo Calicchia and Jose Infante.

Thornton has started a scholarship program at Southern Methodist University in Lev Aronson’s name and thanks in part to a Kickstarter.com campaign, the Lev Aronson Legacy Project will include the CD, released this week on CD Baby and ITunes, a concert tour, and a music festival June 10th through the 15th in Dallas.

(Click image for larger view.)

Listener Comments:

Interesting, heartbreaking, wonderful and inspiring!


Posted by: Judy Wearden (Kent, OH) on June 5, 2013 2:06AM
The CD "Kol Nidre and Beyond: Lev's Story" is available now on CD Baby and ITunes as well as the Severance Hall gift shop.


Posted by: Anonymous on June 1, 2013 10:06AM
Where can I purchase this CD? I really, really enjoyed hearing this heartwrenching and also wonderful story. What an outstanding tribute to a great man.


Posted by: susan schoeni (beloit, oh.) on June 1, 2013 9:06AM
Add Your Comment
Name:

Location:

E-mail: (not published, only used to contact you about your comment)


Comments:




 
Page Options

Print this page

E-Mail this page / Send mp3

Share on Facebook




Stories with Recent Comments

Brunswick will turn tornado sirens back on after bad weather
Put the sirens back after the storms, in the mean time just sit and wait for another tornado . That's Brunswick for you lived here 44 years and it has always be...

Oberlin council may rescind its gun ban, but is considering alternatives to keep it in effect
Seems that the only scared, paranoid people are the anti-gun people, really.

Massive pipeline planned to pump Ohio shale products to Texas
This needs stopped. Ohioans pay the price, putting up with pollution, leaks, explosions, and the top one percent profit from exporting fracked product to China.

National Weather Service confirms three tornado touchdowns yesterday
I was driving back from a party and was caught in the middle of a large thunderstorm. The hail and lightning were a whole light closer than usual, is something ...

Another Indians season opens with Chief Wahoo under scrutiny
The picture you have for Robert rocha is not him. He has long hair. No idea who that guy is in that picture

Portman predicts McDonald's confirmation, but says it won't be easy
I sent the following note to Senator Blumenthal after reading commentary from yesterday's hearing: Senator, You certainly have the right to ask Mr. McDonald que...

Seven minutes changed everything, but what changed Ashford Thompson?
He shot the guy four times in the head. I have never been that drunk or mad, and I have been through it. Shoot a guy once is bad, maybe a mistake, shoot a guy f...

First cricket farm in the U.S. opens in Youngstown
I am interested in cricket flour to replace soy flour in a low carbohydrate diet. As soon as you have cricket flour available for the average person, please le...

New process starts digesting sludge in Wooster
Awesome! When do our sewage rates decrease accordingly?

Copyright © 2014 WKSU Public Radio, All Rights Reserved.

 
In Partnership With:

NPR PRI Kent State University

listen in windows media format listen in realplayer format Car Talk Hosts: Tom & Ray Magliozzi Fresh Air Host: Terry Gross A Service of Kent State University 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. NPR Senior Correspondent: Noah Adams Living on Earth Host: Steve Curwood 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. A Service of Kent State University