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Rain Tree (2011)


picc. (timp. bd. crotales. vib. mar.) harp. strings


2023 SSO version movt. II: picc. (timp. bd. crotales.)pf. harp. strings


Duration: 12'

I – Breeze (with an air of freedom)

II – Rain (scherzando – stormy – scherzando – ascendere – celestial)

III – Leaves (con brio – scherzando – con brio – with an air of freedom – con brio)


Titled after Ho Poh Fun's poem Rain Tree, this work was inspired by the ubiquitous tropical tree that provides an oasis of greenery and shade in the urban landscape and tropical weather of Singapore. Depicted with keen imagination, the Singaporean poet captures the essence of nature rather sublimely, naturally igniting musical impressions. Each of the three movements in this work sketches a different perspective of the arborescent theme. 

The central movement is a musical portrait of the different types of rain we experience in sunny Singapore. Juxtaposed by a stormy middle section, the humorous drizzle and dramatic rain-pour eventually yield to the vaporizing ascent and condensation into celestial clouds. The outer movements feature the subtle interaction between the tree and its surroundings, concluding with the glorious impression of “pinnate leaves proliferating.”

Rain Tree was commissioned and premiered by the National University of Singapore Symphony Orchestra in 2011, with conductors Lim Soon Lee and Foo Say Ming. The work was read by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Marin Alsop, and received the Japan premiere by the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra, which I had the great privilege of conducting. It was later awarded the Macht Orchestral Composition Prize by the Peabody Institute in 2013, culminating in the US premiere of the revised version by the Peabody Symphony Orchestra and music director Teri Murai.


The Singapore Symphony Orchestra’s performance of this work during their 2014-15 concert season under the baton of Lan Shui marks a momentous milestone of the first collaboration with the orchestra that I grew up listening to, an ensemble that is highly instrumental to my musical growth, and where my roots belong.



Review from The Straits Times:

Review from The Financial Times:


Review from Flying Inkpot:

Notes for SSO 2023 (2nd movement only) 

*In this 2023 SSO version, movement II is arranged for Piano, and an updated Harp part (replacing Vibraphone and Marimba).

II – Rain (scherzando – stormy – scherzando – ascendere – celestial)


The central movement is a musical portrait of the different types of rain we experience in sunny Singapore, in a way, a musical depiction of the rain cycle. It begins with a humorous drizzle, where the pointillist of string pizzicato texture gathers into an arabesque of a light-hearted and graceful violin solo. The woodwinds paint a sonic texture of evolving clouds... 'and as we give pause' (quoted from the poem), the rainfall grows denser and eventually gathers momentum into a monsoon rainstorm, where the brasses and percussion joins in this stormy middle section. The heavy rain-pour yields once again to the sunny but humid weather, where the vaporizing ascent is symbolized by the sustained strings, harmonics, bowed crotales, arriving once again high above as celestial clouds articulated by the harp and woodwinds.

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