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Aronson was born in München Gladbach, Germany. His parents, from Riga, Latvia, were on a trip in Germany at the time of Aronson's birth, and they returned to their family home in Riga three weeks after Aronson's birth. Aronson began playing cello professionally at the age of 11, performing in silent movie orchestras and clubs.
Upon his graduation from high school at 16, Aronson moved to Berlin to study law, but was recommended by a fellow cellist as a student to Julius Klengel. Aronson pursued his career in cello performance. Aronson graduated from Berlin Hochschule für Musik, continuing instruction under Alfred von Glehn and Gregor Piatigorsky in Berlin. Ultimately, Piatigorsky would continue to be Aronson's mentor and role model. He graduated from the Berlin Hochschule in 1932.
Performing and teaching career
Aronson began performing locally with three German friends in the Peters String Quartet in addition to performing throughout Europe as a soloist and in orchestras. Although the Jewish population of Europe became subject to increased political hostility through the 1930s, Aronson was able to perform and served as principal cellist for the Libau (Liepāja) Philharmonic Orchestra. German forces invaded and occupied Riga in June 1941. Aronson's cello was confiscated, and he was taken into custody in July 1941.
Aronson and his family were confined to the Riga Ghetto in August 1941. As a prisoner in a forced labor gang, Aronson was sent to Kaiserwald, Buchenwald, Gotendo, Burggraben, and Lauenberg. Aronson was detained a total of four years in Nazi camps. During this time, Aronson befriended tenor Gregor Shelkan, with whom he would compose several original works. Aronson's parents and sister were killed.
When the Russian military freed the survivors of the Lauenberg camp on April 10, 1945, Aronson was taken into custody by the Russian military under suspicion of being a German spy. Before being imprisoned by the Russians, Aronson met his first wife, the ballet dancer Nina Bukowska. Aronson, Nina and Shelkan escaped the Russian camp, Aronson and Shelkan fleeing from Liegnitz to the American militarized zone of Berlin in July 1946.
Aronson immigrated to the United States in 1948, reuniting with his mentor Piatigorsky. He accepted a contract with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra and moved to Texas. Aronson served as principal cellist in the Dallas Symphony until 1967, but retired due to a heart condition. Aronson was offered a teaching position at Baylor University in Waco. In 1979, Aronson married cellist Harriet Snodgrass Springer, and in 1980 he began teaching at Southern Methodist University. In the 1970s, Aronson collaborated with Croatian cellist Rudolf Matz, producing the two-volume work The Complete Cellist.
Death and legacy
Lev Aronson died in Dallas on November 12, 1988. His students include Lynn Harrell, Ralph Kirshbaum, Brian Thornton, John Sharp, Adron Ming, Brook Pearce, Christopher Adkins, Laurie Arnold, Alicia Randisi-Hooker, Karen Terbeek, Carol Haski, Philip Taggart, Kevin Dvorak, Richard Pope and Mitch Maxwell.
Brent, Frances Padorr. 2009. The Lost Cellos of Lev Aronson. New York: Atlas & Co. Publishers.
Chism, Olin. "The Incredible Story of Lev Aronson," Dallas Times Herald, January 14, 1979.
Lesch, Carolyn. "High Profile: Lev Aronson," Dallas Morning News, March 2, 1986.
Lev Aronson Cello Music Collection, SC009.1. Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, NC, USA.
Lev Aronson Curriculum Vitae, SC009.2. Lev Aronson Personal Papers Collection, Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, NC, USA.
Universitat Hamburg. "Lev Aronson," Lexikon verfolgter Musiker und Musikerinnen der NS-Zeit. Accessed May 27, 2013: http://www.lexm.uni-hamburg.de/object/lexm_lexmperson_00000769