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Lev Aronson Musical Score and Personal Papers Collection

Identifier: CC 0009

Scope and Contents

The collection primarily consists of scores owned or relating to cellist Lev Aronson. The collection features several manuscripts and facsimiles of music for voice and instrument composed with Gregor Shelkan relating to their experiences in the Nazi and Russian labor camps. Two oversized manuscript scores in Aronson's hand are signed with Aronson's inmate identification number, KZ-95573 (see Aronson 85-1 and Aronson 85-2). Additionally, there is a manuscript English translation of Karl Davidov's School of Cello Playing. The dominate dates of publications within the collection range from 1920 to 1980.


  • 1912 - 1988
  • Other: Date acquired: 2008 January


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Copyright is retained by the creators of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law. Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information. Please see our Sensitive Materials Statement.

Collection Historical Note

Lev Aronson (1912-1988) was an established performer and teacher of the violoncello and Jewish survivor of the German and Russian labor camps of World War II. Aronson began his cello studies under Julius Klengel, graduating from Berlin Hochschule fur Musik in 1932. During his time at the Berlin Conservatory, Aronson studied under Alfred von Glehn and Gregor Piatigorsky. Piatigorsky would continue to be Aronson's mentor and role model throughout his career.

After immigrating to the United States in 1948, Aronson settled in Texas, performing as principal cellist of the Dallas Symphony until 1967. He retired from the symphony do to health reasons and accepted a teaching position at Baylor University and later at Southern Methodist University.

Lev Aronson is best remembered for his contributions in teaching, inspiring generations of musicians with his knowledge of the cello and with his strength of personal character.

Biographical Note

Lev Aronson was on born February 7, 1912 in Munichen Gladbach, Germany. Aronson's family had briefly settled in Germany, but returned to their home in Mitava (presently Jelgava, Latvia) until 1915. Latvia, at this time, was a part of the Russian Empire. In the spring of 1915, the Aronsons were forced from Mitava, as Czarist Russia expelled the Courland Jewish population into Russia with the German advance (April 18, 1915). The Aronsons were deported by train to Voronezh, southeast of Moscow. During his time in Voronezh, Aronson received a formal Russian education and was introduced to the cello by a relative who was staying with his family. Three years after the initiation of the Russian Revolution, in 1920, the family was allowed to leave Veronezh and they chose to go to Riga.

Lev Aronson's first cello teachers included Aron Rafaelovitsch Rubinstein and Paul Berkowitz. He began public performance at the age of 13, performing in silent movie orchestras. Upon his graduation from high school at 16, Aronson moved to Berlin to study law, but a doctor, who was an amateur cellist, introduced him to Julius Klengel in Leipzig and he returned to cello studies with him. After working with Klengel, Aronson continued with Alfred von Glehn at the Klindworth-Scharwenka Conservatory in Berlin.. When von Glehn died, Gregor Piatigorsky took over his class. Piatigorsky was to become Aronson's life-long mentor and friend.

Aronson left the the Berlin Conservatory in 1932, he 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 Liepaja (Libaja) Philharmonic Orchestra. German forces invaded and occupied Riga in June of 1941. Aronson's cello was confiscated and he and his family were trapped in the Riga Ghetto. Aronson worked as a slave laborer in the Riga-Kaiserwald system until September, 1944 when he was deported to Stutthof. From there he went to Burggraben and worked in the Danzig shipyards and later he went to Gotentov (near Lauenberg) where he was liberated in the spring of 1945. Some of the musicians from the Riga ghetto survived the war in the same camps; the tenor Gregor Shelkan was one of them. After the war, Aronson and Shelkan, memorializing those who had died in the war (including Aronson's parents and sister), composed several of the original compositions within the collection. Just months after liberation, Aronson, along with many other survivors, was arrested and sent to a Soviet repatriation camp. He managed to escape and made his way with the help of the Jewish underground through Poland to the American militarized zone.

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. Aronson was offered a teaching position at Baylor University in Waco. In 1980, Aronson began teaching at Southern Methodist University and married cellist Harriet Springer, whose collection is incorporated into Aronson's sheet music. In the 1970s, Aronson collaborated with Croatian cellist, Rudolf Matz, producing the two volume work, The Complete Cellist. Drafts and correspondence relating to this publication can be found in the personal papers collection of Aronson and Matz.

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, Alicia Randisi-Hooker, Karen Terbeek, Carol Haski, Philip Taggart, Kevin Dvorak, and Mitch Maxwell.


147.00 Linear Feet (98 boxes)

Language of Materials



Lev Aronson (1912-1988) was a notable performer and teacher of the cello. He co-authored the pedagogical text, The Complete Cellist, with Rudolf Matz, but may be best remembered for his influence as an inspirational teacher to many established cellist of the current generation. In addition to the collection of musical scores, a small collection of personal papers are included in his archive.

Arrangement Note

The Lev Aronson Musical Score Collection is arranged into three series. The first series consists of compositions written by Aronson. The second series is organized as arrangements by Aronson and manuscript arrangments by other composers. The third series includes published scores. Material is arranged alphabetically according to composer within each series.

Related Publications

Separated Materials

Bound scores, monographs, and serials were separated and can be searched through the library catalog. Personal papers have been processed as a separate collection.

Offensive Language Statement

The UNC Greensboro University Libraries collects, preserves, and makes accessible unique and historical materials for learning and research. The nature of historical materials is such that some material may represent positions, norms, and values that are offensive and objectionable. These materials represent the opinions and actions of their creators. By providing access to these records in our reading room and through our digital collections, we recognize that archives and rare books can play a vital role in holding those creators accountable and in helping us learn from the past.

Our finding aids and other collection descriptions may occasionally re-use language provided by creators or former holders of the materials, but we strive to place outdated or offensive terminology in context. That said, we recognize that we may not always make the right decision and welcome feedback from all sources so we can learn and adjust our practices. Please contact us at if you encounter problematic language in our finding aids or other collection description. We will review the language and, as appropriate, update it in a way that balances preservation of the original context with our ongoing commitment to describing materials with respectful and inclusive language.

Processing Information

The collection was processed by Stacey Krim in 2013.

Lev Aronson Musical Score and Personal Papers Collection
Stacey Krim
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives Repository

P.O. Box 26170
320 College Ave.
Greensboro NC 27402-6170 US