Triangles for three flutes and three cellos
The work was commissioned by BBC Television and was to be used in an audiovisual programme. The idea draws on Indian Tantric philosophy (the impulse for writing it came from an exhibition of ancient art from India), in which the triangle has 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 symbolize the union of both elements. This symbolism is reflected in the composition's structure, consisting of three parts: Trikona I, Trikona II and Yantra.
The first part is performed only by the cellists (men), with the second by the flautists (women), then 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 – the symbolic choice of instruments and players as well as their placement on stage (which was used in the television recording). The symbolism of female and male elements is also reflected in the musical language – though 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 BBC2 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.
The score has remained in manuscript to
this day. The BBC television recording has survived and testifies both to the
visual attractiveness of Panufnik’s work and to the fact that the music is on a
par with his other chamber pieces. In 2014, the 28th Warsaw Music Encounters
featured the Polish premiere of Triangles,
giving listeners a direct opportunity to see that the work enhances the
composer’s artistic legacy in an interesting manner. A recording of this live
performance is presented in our collection.