BPO Book Beat


Presented as a FREE benefit exclusively for BPO subscribers and donors, our virtual book club explores the most exciting musical topics through the creative works of scholars. We’ll be discussing these great reads live with our host and special guest speakers. Each session is designed to be self-containing, meaning that you do NOT have to finish the book, or even read the book, to participate! Our hope is that you will come away from each session having learned something new and had a little fun along the way!

All BPOBookBeat events are virtual and take place on the final Thursday of each month from 7-9pm

Instructions for participation:

In this webinar setting, you will have the ability to interact as much or as little as you like. Your microphone will be muted and sharing your video is optional. You will have the ability to ask questions and interact with other patrons via our Q&A chat function.

  1. To register for any of the events below, click “REGISTER FOR FREE.” Follow the prompts on screen to complete your registration.
  2. You will receive an e-mail confirmation from the BPO with log-in instructions, AND you will receive another reminder e-mail with this same information on the day of your scheduled event. Click the link from your e-mail to participate.
  3. In advance of the event, you will need to ensure you have the latest version of Zoom downloaded and installed in order to participate. On the date and time of your event, Zoom may prompt you to enter your name and e-mail address to join the event.
  4. Please ensure that you have good quality speakers and that your device’s audio is turned on.
  5. If you encounter any problems logging in, please contact BPO Patron Services at 716-885-5000.

Past BPOBookBeat Recordings

Beethoven’s Hair: An Extraordinary Historical Odyssey and a Scientific Mystery Solved

By Russell Martin

Recorded Thu Feb 25

4 copies available via Buffalo & Erie County Public Library HERE

The basis for the movie of the same name, an astonishing tale of one lock of hair and its amazing travels–from nineteenth-century Vienna to twenty-first-century America.

When Ludwig van Beethoven lay dying in 1827, a young musician named Ferdinand Hiller came to pay his respects to the great composer, snipping a lock of Beethoven’s hair as a keepsake–as was custom at the time–in the process. For a century, the lock of hair was a treasured Hiller family relic, until it somehow found its way to the town of Gilleleje, in Nazi-occupied Denmark. There, it was given to a local doctor, Kay Fremming, who was deeply involved in the effort to help save hundreds of hunted and frightened Jews.

After Fremming’s death, his daughter assumed ownership of the lock, and eventually consigned it for sale at Sotheby’s, where two American Beethoven enthusiasts, Ira Brilliant and Che Guevara, purchased it in 1994. Subsequently, they and others instituted a series of complex forensic tests in the hope of finding the probable causes of the composer’s chronically bad health, his deafness, and the final demise that Ferdinand Hiller had witnessed all those years ago. The results, revealed for the first time here, are the most compelling explanation yet offered for why one of the foremost musicians the world has ever known was forced to spend much of his life in silence.

In Beethoven’s Hair, Russell Martin has created a rich historical treasure hunt, a tale of false leads, amazing breakthroughs, and incredible revelations. This unique and fascinating book is a moving testament to the power of music, the lure of relics, the heroism of the Resistance movement, and the brilliance of molecular science.

Watch the video!

Bernstein: A Biography (revised & updated)

By Joan Peyser

Recorded Thu Mar 25, 7pm

2 copies available via Buffalo & Erie County Public Library HERE

Author, journalist and music critic Peyser enlists the remarks of Bernstein’s family, friends and colleagues in order to expose inconsistencies in his own version of his life and to explore his motivations, struggles, and contributions.

Watch the video!

New Worlds of Dvorák: Searching in America for the Composer’s Inner Life

By Michael B. Beckerman

Recorded Thu Apr 29, 7pm

1 copy available via Buffalo & Erie County Public Library HERE

Focusing on Dvorák’s eventful stay in the United States from 1892 to 1895, this book explores the world behind the public legend, offering fresh insights into the composer’s music. We see the traditional image―that of a simple Czech fellow with a flair for composing symphonic and chamber music―give way to one of a complex figure writing works filled with hidden drama and secret programs. In his cogent examination of Dvorák’s state of mind, Michael B. Beckerman, a noted scholar of Czech music, concludes that the composer suffered from a debilitating and previously unexplored anxiety disorder during his American sojourn. Using Dvorák as a model, he argues convincingly that the biographical images we carry of composers condition the way we approach their music.

New Worlds of Dvorák also presents us with a wealth of new information about the origins of the composer’s “New World” Symphony, its strong relationship (in the face of Dvorák’s denials) to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic poem The Song of Hiawatha, the Hiawatha opera that the composer envisioned but did not write, and the “Negro themes” that Dvorák claimed as a strong influence on his American works. Along the way we are introduced to a cast of characters that could easily spring from the pages of a novel. First there is Jeannette Thurber, a wealthy New Yorker who founded a music conservatory and persuaded Dvorák to direct it. We meet Henry T. Burleigh, a black composer of art music, who sang African American spirituals to Dvorák. Among the critics of the day who wrote endlessly about the Czech composer and his “American” symphony, we meet James Huneker, who derided Dvorák’s claim that his music was American, even though Huneker himself played a major role in acquainting Dvorák with African American songs. We learn that Huneker was not quite the villain he has been made out to be in the Dvorák saga. We also meet the newspaperman James Creelman, who was nurtured under Pulitzer and Hearst and was an early proponent of “yellow journalism,” in which the journalist plays an active role in the story being reported. Finally, we meet Henry Krehbiel, who became a friend of Dvorák’s and who saw the music critic as mediator between the musician and the public, arousing interest and paving the way to popular comprehension of concert music. In this forceful reinterpretation of the composer’s personality and work, readers will gain a rich new view of Dvorák that will deepen their understanding of his works, especially the “New World” Symphony and the other compositions dating from his American years.

Watch the video!

Pan American Exposition, Buffalo, 1901: A Bird’s-Eye View of Sights and Sounds

By Raya Lee

Thu May 27, 7pm

Click HERE to purchase

This illustrated, informative booklet offers a bird’s-eye view of the Pan-American Exposition. Review the grounds which were located between what today are Elmwood and Delaware avenues. See the sights that were seen then, when electricity was a novelty. And hear the sounds of the Pan-Am. A delightful CD of the music of the Pan-American Exposition as it was played by John Philip Sousa in 1901 – on player piano rolls – is tucked inside a colorful back pocket. A great way to experience a momentous event, when Buffalo came to be known as the City of Light.