piano

At the insistence of his piano teacher Paul Dukas, the 21 year-old Messiaen, still a student, published his eight Préludes in 1929. While the evocative titles suggest the influence of Debussy, the music confirms that the young Messiaen had at this time already developed a unique compositional voice, demonstrating a vast range of fresh sonorities for the piano. The first prelude of the set, La colombe (The Dove) prefigures Messiaen’s lifelong interest in birdsong, here encapsulated within an impressionist aesthetic. Symmetrical in form, the miniature ends with a gently ascending line, suggesting a dove in flight. Les sons impalpables du rêve (The Impalpable Sounds of a Dream) is structured like a rondo, with two episodes framed by a recurring, otherworldly set of chime-like figures in the right hand floating over top of a melody that seemingly unfolds in its own metre. The clear formal structure of Un reflet dans le vent (A Reflection in the Wind) is only a backdrop for this wonderfully illustrative prelude, in which a musical windstorm arises to rustle leaves and sway trees, one moment gentle, the next tempestuous.

Performances