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