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The Modal World of William Walton’s Bagatelles: Part 3

Following on from the previous two posts that covered the second and third movements of Walton’s bagatelles, this post will shine a light on the fourth movement. By far the simplest movement in the whole of the composition, the first seven bars follows a simple but interesting idea, jumping two keys back while having a V – I bassline.

Firstly, D Major over A – D followed by the jump over G Major to C Major, back twice through the circle of fifths, and repeating the same idea over G – C bass notes. Once again, WW uses this invention to jump over F Major to Bb Major while repeating the V – I in the bass, F – Bb. Now that idea is thoroughly explored, the music moves on to more interesting sounding scales from bar 8 – 15.

Firstly, a pretty standard change from one Harmonic Major scale to another:

A Harmonic Major – D Hungarian minor – D Harmonic Major #4 – D Harmonic Major

Next, a nice route back to the original key of D Major:

D Harmonic Major – E Melodic b5 – D Major

Finally, a quick dip in the relative minor before resolving to the key of D Major at the very end:

G Major – B Neapolitan minor – B Harmonic minor – D Major – B Harmonic minor – D Major

Notice in the final example above that instead of going straight to the relative minor via the B Harmonic minor scale, WW moves back through the circle of fifths to G Major and then raises the root of the Dorian mode to reach B Neapolitan minor and then raises it's second degree to move into B Harmonic minor, a standard move pioneered in the baroque period but still nice to hear in a modern piece. The actual modal changes are shown below:

(G Major) A Dorian (+1) = A# Alt bb37 (B Neapolitan minor) – C Lydian #6 (+1) – C# Locrian natural 6 (B Harmonic min)

Next, I am looking at the fifth movement, which is far more complex and uses some fabulous modes so stay tuned. Thanks for reading.

My book on modes and their uses is available at

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