Triangles for three flutes and three cellos, 1972, 16'

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The work was commissioned by the BBC television and was to be used in an audiovisual programme. The idea draws on the Indian Tantric philosophy (the impulse for writing it came from an exhibition of old Indian art), in which the triangle has a symbolic meaning – presented with the apex upwards it embodies the male, spiritual force; with the apex pointing down – the female, erotic force. When superimposed, the two triangles symbolise a union of both elements. This symbolism is reflected in the structure of the composition consisting of three parts: Trikona ITrikona II and Yantra.

The first part is performed only by the cellists (men), the second – by the flautists (women), with the two groups of performers being combined in the last part. The composer used the triangle not only to design the form of the work, but also in the visual aspect – symbolic choice of instruments and players as well as their placement on stage (which was used in the television recording). The symbolism of the female and the male element is also reflected in the musical language – although both Trikonas are based on the intervals of the E-F-B cell, the ‘male’ Trikona I develops the basic sound material upwards, as it were, while the ‘female’ Trikona II goes down the scale. Both directions are combined in Yantra.

Triangles was performed and recorded in the BBC 2 studio on 14 April 1972. 

The composer subsequently admitted that the piece turned out to be of vital importance to his creative experiments:

Though my Triangles, (...) was intended purely for television rather than concert performance, and at the time did not seem of particular importance in my musical output, it engendered the vital next step in my discoveries as a composer. The idea of a musical work being contained and shaped by perfect order of geometric form was soon to emerge as a driving force which would permeate almost everything I wrote.

Indeed, Andrzej Panufnik’s Triangles was not performed as a concert piece and has remained in manuscript to this day. We only have the BBC television recording. It shows that it would be worth bringing the composition back from obscurity, because it is on a par with Panufnik’s other chamber works, enhancing his artistic legacy in an interesting manner.