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Another diaspora story

0 Robert Levine

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.

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