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The Modal World of William Walton’s Bagatelles: Part 2

In this second post of the series I am looking at movement III, Alla Cubana. This piece is divided into three sections, the first two repeated with variations while the third is the climactic ending.

NB: Although some of the analyses presented here may seem complex or advanced, the actual learning process as outlined in my book The Modal Method makes it straightforward when the incremental steps towards understanding the changes in music are understood.

Ex.1 shows bars 1 – 8. The piece is predominantly in B Harmonic minor throughout with standard changes but there are a few stand out moments.

In Ex.1 the change to D Harmonic Major is very good, WW opting for the A# to act as enharmonically as Bb in the ‘relative’ major of D Harmonic major before resolving back into D Major. The G# moves forward through the circle of fifths to A Major and the its root is raised to get to B Melodic, played over the G# making the mode Aeolian b5. G# is the dropped again to G, back into B Harmonic minor and then D Major back to G Major, over F# Locrian mode before returning to B Harmonic minor once more.

This is summarised in shorthand below:

B H. min – D H. Maj – D Maj – B Mel – B H. min – D Maj – G Maj – B H. min

Ex.2 is much simpler: B Harmonic minor resolves back to D Major, then back again to G Major and then a nice little change to B Neapolitan minor via A Dorian (+1) and then back to B Harmonic minor by raising the second degree of B Neapolitan minor.

B H. min – D Maj – G Maj – B N. min – B H. min

Finally, Ex.3 has a simple, catchy ending. D Major, forward a fifth to A Major. Then A Ionian (+1) moves into B Melodic territory before dropping the G# Aeolian b5 (-1) to G Lydian #2 and ending again in B Harmonic minor.

D Maj – A Maj – B Mel – B H. min

So, the Alla Cubana is not as advanced modally as the previous movement. I’ll look at movement IV next. I hope you enjoyed this brief analysis. My book explaining the method involved is available here: https://www.bedwellmusic.co.uk/general-7


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