- Preludes (8) for piano, I/2
- Catalogue d'oiseaux (in 7 books), for piano, I/42: La Bouscarle (Book 5)
- Catalogue d'oiseaux (in 7 books), for piano, I/42: L'Alouette Lulu (Book 3)
- Études de rhythme (4), for piano solo, I/32-35: 1. Île de feu 1
- Études de rhythme (4), for piano solo, I/32-35: 4. Île de feu 2
What's remarkable about Messiaen's very early "Préludes pour piano," written in 1928 and 1929 when the composer was 20 while he was a student, is the individuality and assurance of his unique compositional voice. As much as these preludes are rooted in Debussian Impressionism, they are unambiguously the work of an original thinker with a distinctive aesthetic personality. Messiaen wrote the preludes soon after his mother's death and characterized them as a "collection of successive states of mind and personal feelings." While the set is mostly bathed in varieties of melancholy, the individual preludes have distinctive personalities, and not all are grief-stricken; there is also serenity, optimism, and even defiance in the face of his loss. The composer's language is mostly delicate and soft hued, but the emotional and musical depth of the eight preludes gives the set real power. The two movements from "Catalogue d'oiseaux" (1956-1958), and "Île de feu I and II" from "Quatre Etudes de rythme" (1950) are harmonically and gesturally more astringent, but they are still infused with a warm lyricism that was evident in the preludes. Pierre-Laurent Aimard is the ideal interpreter for Messiaen; he studied with Yvonne Loriod, the composer's wife, at the Paris Conservatory, and won first prize in the 1973 Olivier Messiaen International Competition. He has been playing Messiaen's music his entire career, and the nuance and finesse of his performance makes it sound like it's second nature to him. His playing shimmers with musical sensitivity, and even the complexity of the composer's later works seem effortless under his fingers. Deutsche Grammophon's sound is clean and present.