Swiss-Singaporean composer and pianist Rahel Senn performing here

Rahel Senn was hailed as a child prodigy by the Swiss press after composing her first musical, in English and German, at age 17. She is also an author and speaks six languages, as well as Hokkien.
Rahel Senn was hailed as a child prodigy by the Swiss press after composing her first musical, in English and German, at age 17. She is also an author and speaks six languages, as well as Hokkien. PHOTO: ART-MANAGEMENT. COM

Swiss-Singaporean Rahel Senn will play at the Botanic Gardens today

It is a tale of two islands, or at least, that is what Swiss-Singaporean composer and pianist Rahel Senn had in mind when she composed Islands, a pop-classical piano tune that represents her dual identities.

"In my eyes, Singapore and Switzerland are both islands - Switzerland in a political, and Singapore in a physical, sense. Both countries have much in common," says Senn, 30, the eldest child of a Swiss physics professor and a Chinese-Singaporean housewife.

Her brother, 28, is a butcher.

The Zurich-based musician will be in Singapore this evening for a free concert at the Singapore Botanic Gardens. The hour-long performance is a celebration of 50 years of diplomatic ties between Singapore and Switzerland and is organised by the Swiss Embassy.

Islands was created specially for the concert. Besides her own compositions, Senn will also perform sonatas by Scarlatti and works by Chopin.

Senn grew up in Switzerland, and as a child, made yearly trips to Singapore with her family to visit relatives. She spent a year in Singapore in 2012 working as a music consultant in Raffles Institution.

  • VIEW IT / PIANO CONCERT BY RAHEL SENN

  • WHERE: Singapore Botanic Gardens, Shaw Foundation Symphony Stage

    WHEN: Today, 6pm

    ADMISSION: Free

    INFO: www.sbg.org.sg

The bachelorette was hailed as a child prodigy by the Swiss press after composing her first musical, in English and German, at age 17, despite not having had any formal music training.

She also speaks six languages - English, French, German, Spanish, Italian and Latin - as well as Hokkien.

She speaks plainly about her reputation as a child prodigy, saying that her dream is to be a "serious musician" with a lifelong career in the industry. "Many child prodigies get lost and never find their way in the real world. Some of them quit what they have commenced," she says.

Senn has not rested on her laurels. She has a degree in music from Lucerne University and has three studio albums to her name, which are a mix of pop and classical tunes. Her most recent album, Opus Z, features elements of electronic music.

Also an author, she wrote her first book in 2015. Der kleine Teteis a German-language novel about Eduard Einstein, the troubled son of Albert Einstein.

Even as she criss-crosses the globe for concerts in Asia, Europe and South America, Singapore remains very dear to her.

She drops by to visit family and friends here. She also loves chicken rice, in particular, from a stall in Ang Mo Kio owned by an elderly woman.

"My aunt used to take me there when I was five or six. The owner has watched me and my brother grow up, and we promised to return whenever we visit Singapore."

Senn's mother, Madam Geok Lian Senn, 62, will fly in from Switzerland to attend her concert here.

"She has always supported my career and it is special for both of us that I can perform in her homeland, to which she is still very connected," says Senn.

The concert venue also holds a special place in Senn's heart.

She fondly recalls jogging in the Botanic Gardens when she lived in Singapore. In 2012, she also held a solo piano recital there. She says: "Part of my heart is Singaporean and it will always be."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 14, 2017, with the headline 'Child prodigy now a successful pianist-composer'. Print Edition | Subscribe