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.

Hospice of the Western Reserve

Knight Foundation

Area Agency on Aging 10B, Inc.


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

Ohio's attorney general rejectsthe latest proposal to legalize marijuana
i think the ag launguage is money hes talking about drug companies must pay him more than responsible ohio can

PBS documentary chronicles the fall of Saigon through new footage and stories
Hi, Does anyone know the number - in the pbs special "Last Days of Vietnam" documentary, of how many Vietnamese were evacuated? Please e-mail me the answer. T...

Protest planned at tomorrow's FirstEnergy meeting
The problems of the poor and downtrodden have nothing to do with First Energy. They are the result of Republican legislators who consistently reduce taxes on th...

Ohio bill would help smaller communities with LGBT discrimination laws
Do we not try and have rights for all individuals equally? On the HUD list of "preferred" candidates who get "special consideration" it states that: For purp...

Ohio likely will continue with two types of police academies
Wake up people your wanting a Harvard law school education for a job that may pay a little over the poverty level. I don't know anyone who could support a wife ...

Police Week's ties from NE Ohio to D.C.
The men and women in blue who risk their lives everyday to serve and protect us....and this is as much recognition and appreciation that NPR/WKSU feels to offer...

First in a Series: How charter schools got a foothold in Ohio
If the interest where in education and there would be oversight of taxpayer dollars, charter schools would be okay. However, Charter School in Ohio are purely f...

Near West Theater raises the curtain at its new home with 'Shrek the Musical'
When I heard you were doing an article about the Near West Theater, I was very excited, because I had seen the lobby artwork in process on the floor of the arti...

Northeast Ohio pastors want to talk reform with Akron-based FirstEnergy
It's great that this First Energy bailout request is getting media coverage. First Energy is asking to be allowed to NOT find the best costing energy to sell us...

Copyright © 2015 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