Toru Takemitsu

Rain-Tree Sketch, for piano

    Description by Jeremy Grimshaw

    Rain-Tree Sketch, a solo piano work composed in 1982, counts among a number of "water-themed" works Toru Takemitsu composed from the late 1970s through the subsequent decade. Many of Takemitsu's works draw on nature imagery for pictorial resonance; several pieces, for example, evoke the open space and pointillist design found in the serene traditional gardens of his native Japan. Takemitsu's water pieces, including Rain Tree (a percussion piece from 1981 related to the work under consideration here principally through their shared imagery), Rain Coming (1982), Toward the Sea I (1980), and I Hear the Water Dreaming (1987), imagine water in its various states and planes: as droplets falling from the sky, the sea resting below, or rivulets and rivers in their fluid downhill motions. Most writers associate the irregular pace and organic texture of Rain-Tree Sketch with Kensaburo Oe's "The Clever Rain Tree," a short story written in honor of French music critic and impresario Maurice Fleuret; Takemitsu dedicated his piece to Fleuret, as well. (There is also, however, a competing and decidedly less attractive attribution: some claim Takemitsu candidly admitted that he got the name "Rain Tree" from the label on a can of shaving cream he had seen during a trip to America, but that he endorsed the after-the-fact connection to Oe's tale because the imagery nonetheless seemed quite fitting.) Oe's story describes a tree with countless tiny leaves that collect and retain water from the morning rain shower so that throughout the day, after the storm has abated, the rain still falls from the tree. Takemitsu's piece works in a similar fashion: its precipitation falls alternately in single droplets of quiet, lone sustained notes and sudden dissonant clusters of tones, as if jostled from waterlogged branches. The composer carefully notates differentiated dynamics and accents, as well as precise pedaling techniques to lend careful nuance to these moment-to-moment contours. The piece's overall form follows an ABA structure delineated by tempo changes, but the rigidity of this form is rendered opaque by the ametrical flow of Takemitsu's gestures and the care and patience with which he releases them.

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2019 Steinway & Sons STNS 30118
    2018 Orchid Classics ORC 100092
    2018 Piano Classics PCL 10147
    2016 Sony Classical / Sony Music Distribution 88875032272
    2016 CRD Records CRD 3526
    2013 ECM / ECM New Series 4810426
    2013 ECM / ECM New Series
    2011 Haenssler / Hänssler Classic HAEN 98631
    2007 Naxos 8570261
    2006 Sony Music Distribution 545
    2006 Finlandia
    2001 ASV CDDCA 1120
    2001 114
    2000 Koch International Classics 7450
    1997 Hat Hut Records / Hat[now]Art 103
    1997 Finlandia 15245
    1996 RCA 902668595
    1996 BIS 766
    1996 BIS 805
    1996 Pro Piano 224502