In January 1907 Falla wrote to Debussy asking for advice prior to a performance he was about to give in Madrid of the Danse sacrée et danse profane
. In his reply Debussy was not prepared to go into much detail. He referred to the ‘colour’ of the two dances, comparing the ‘gravity’ of the one with the ‘grace’ of the other and expressed himself content to leave the performance to the Spaniard’s own musical taste. Falla was going to play the Danses
on the piano, but they had originally been composed for the harp. In 1894 Gustave Lyon had invented a chromatic harp which, by virtue of an extra set of strings, removed the need for the pedals found on the conventional instrument. The Paris firm of Pleyel, with the intention of popularizing it, commissioned Debussy, amongst others, to compose something for the chromatic harp. The two Danses
, for harp and string orchestra, were composed in 1904 and were dedicated to the instrument’s inventor. It would seem that Debussy (or perhaps his publishers) had little faith in this new invention, for the score indicates that the solo part in these dances can also be played on the pedal harp (as they usually are) or on the piano. The reduction for two pianos, which also dates from 1904, was made by Debussy himself.
from notes by Peter Avis © 1999