5 pages, 4to (c.31.5 x 24cm), 12-stave paper by Lard Esnault, in all 2 bifolia including blanks and pencil sketches, title page in Faure's formal copperplate hand, with dedication and titles above the music in ink, markings in blue crayon by the engraver C.G. Roeder ("Hoch" etc.), original stitching, [c.1888], some staining from the engraver on the first and last pages
Fauré composed this mélodie in 1887 and it was first published separately by Hamelle with the plate number 2853. This manuscript served as the engraver's model for that rare edition: there is a copy in the Bibliothèque Nationale (département Musique, L-13410), but we have not traced it in British or American libraries. The song was later re-engraved on three music pages and included in Hamelle's collection Vingt Mélodies, 2ème Recueil ('No.18', pp.73-75), with plate number 4103. There was once also a later autograph, dated 27 January 1892, of the version transposed down to E-flat major, since lost : see D. Herlin, Collection Musicale François Lang. Abbaye de Royaumont (1993), no.1319 (illustrated on p.252).
Jean-Michel Nectoux regards 'Les Présents' as one of Fauré's most subtle songs, based on Villiers de l'Isle Adam's Contes cruels, also the source for his song 'Nocturne' (1886) op.43 no.2 (alluded to in the pencil annotation on the title-page). Roy Howat draws attention to the "new boldness and intensity in his composition of mélodies", at this time, prompted by the discovery of "the darker, more complex poetry of Villiers de l'Isle Adam and Verlaine", through the advocacy of the dedicatee of this song, Comte Robert de Montesquiou.
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