James K. Baxter is New Zealand’s most well-known poet. He wrote in a wide variety of styles and genres, including the traditional ballad form, of which Lament for Barney Flanagan is a prime example. It contains a classic Baxter mix of humour and pathos, lively in spirit but focussed on the subject of death, in this case the heart-attack of an overweight publican. The music is simple and strong, allowing the witty lyrics to speak for themselves, but also adding occasional wry touches of word-painting.
This work for solo piano has been described as “a haunting gem for a modern baby.” (Blanks, Sydney Morning Herald)
“In a simple arch structure of eight bar phrases, it progresses in variations from naive simplicity to what could almost amount to a nightmare in the centre, then back to slumbering innocence once again.” (Bibby, Music in New Zealand)