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Magnus Lindberg

Publisher: Chester Music

Arena (1995)
commissioned by the First International Sibelius Conductors' Competition, where excerpts were premiered on 15/5/1995
Chester Music Ltd
Sub Category
Large Orchestra
Year Composed
15 Minutes
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Programme Note
Magnus Lindberg Arena (1995)
Arena was commissioned by the first International Sibelius Conductors Competition (1995) and was premiered on 30 June 1995 at Porvoo (Finland) by the Avanti! Chamber Orchestra conducted by Sakari Oramo. In 1996 Magnus Lindberg made a revised version for sixteen instruments from the original score for symphony orchestra - baptised, Arena II. The duration is 16'.

Commissioned by the first Sibelius Conductor's Competition held in Helsinki in May 1995, as an obligatory piece to be rehearsed by all the competitors, Arena was performed in its totality at the annual Avanti! Chamber Orchestra's festival in Porvoo (Finland). Thematic thinking has never been a main feature in Lindberg's music, but here horizontal lines (one would not yet dare to call them melodies) gain some independence , for example in ornamental figures and in the intense cello solo around the middle of the piece. Another new element - which was already used to some extent at the warmly hovering ending of Aura - is the almost romantic sound world and the suspension of the harmonies in the final climax, which can make one think of Mahler and Berg, or Lindberg's grand predecessor and compatriot, Sibelius.

Arena reveals some clearly new material after a period of two years during which all Lindberg's pieces were dominated by the world of Aura. Lindberg has talked about Beethoven-like formal thinking, referring to a passage where the sense of movement seems to accelerate to an extreme so that finally one perceives only a motionless surface, Arena was written for a competition, but it is not just a work to catch out conductors; it is clearly an independent piece of music, and certainly Lindberg's most important work since Aura.

I also liked Magnus Lindberg’s dazzling orchestral essay Arena… Lindberg is ubiquitous in new music programming at the moment, and this piece has already surfaced in a reduced chamber version… But the teeming density of the textures (each string section divisi a four) makes larger forces preferable, so long as they don’t diffuse the music’s energy; and this performance was ideal, exhilarating, buoyant, proving Lindberg’s gift for pleasing crowds with grand gestures as well as torturing orchestras with minute complexities.
Michael White, Independent on Sunday,01/07/1996
One seriously begins to wonder if he is not the most gifted composer of his generation. For, after Joy or Kinetics (for medium-sized ensemble), Arena, for large orchestra, is even more dazzling: chiselled writing with irresistible life and impetuosity, absolute mastery of form and duration. This great admirer of Beethoven, Mahler and Sibelius seems more and more to take on a certain sonic opulence, a taste for dynamic effectiveness. Just cause for celebration.
Jacques-Emmanuel Fousnaquer, Le Monde,01/02/1996
"The highlight of the festival [Présences '96] has been without doubt Arena (1994-95) for large orchestra, which once more confirms [Lindberg] as the best composer of his generation"
Patrick Szersnovicz, Le Monde de la Musique,01/01/1996
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