Aaron Gruen

photo of Aaron Gruen
Aaron Gruen

Music  |  Chemistry

Music Award:

2023 Walter J. Nelson Prize
2019 Margery MacColl Award

Honors in Music Thesis:

“Terror in Terezín: A Study and Performance of Pavel Haas’s Studie für Streichorchester”

My thesis is divided into two parts: a written work and a performance. In the written part of my thesis, I analyze Pavel Haas’s Study for Strings (1943) to investigate how the composer may have drawn inspiration for his composition from his imprisonment in the Terezín Ghetto. After exploring the history of the ghetto, Pavel Haas’s upbringing and education, and his relationship to his teacher, Leoš Janáček, I analyze the Study in terms of its surface elements and its hidden elements. The piece is a departure from Haas’s usual compositional style, and it appears as if Haas drew inspiration from his circumstance in Terezín. This investigation offers additional information about the mysterious life of Pavel Haas, the horrors of the Terezín Ghetto, and the ways in which composers and their works may be influenced by horrific circumstances.

In the performance, I presented an all-Czech program of Leoš Janáček’s String Quartet No. 1 (“Kreutzer Sonata”), Pavel Haas’s Study for Strings, and Bohuslav Martinů’s Sonata No. 3 for Cello and Piano. I wanted to highlight Haas’s Study between a work of his teacher and a sonata with salient elements of Czech music, such as folk music mixed with chromaticism and complex rhythms. I used my musicological research into the Study to inform my interpretation of the piece, and used a clip of the Nazi propaganda film in which the Study was featured to give the audience an idea of the circumstances in which it was composed.

Personal Statement:

Aaron grew up in Munich, Germany, and started playing the cello at the age of four. Aaron is graduating with concentrations in Chemistry (Honor’s) and Music (Honor’s), having studied cello with Daniel Harp. For the 2020-21 academic year he studied cello with Petr Nouzovsky at the Prague Music Conservatory. He has enjoyed playing in the Brown University Orchestra, performing with his piano quartet and string quartet, teaching students at Brown and Moses Brown school, and leading the group Healing Through Harmony, which gives performances in medical facilities, prisons, and orphanages around Rhode Island. In 2021 he won the Brown University Orchestra Concerto Competition, performing the Shostakovich Cello Concerto No.1 with the orchestra in March 2022.

Apart from his musical activities, Aaron works in a Chemistry lab, is currently training for the Olympic marathon trials, and volunteers in a local hospital. He plans to stay on the East Coast next year working in a hospital, playing music, and running. He plans to attend medical school starting in 2024.