Working on “The Rite of Spring”: Stravinsky’s Sketches for the Ballet at the Paul Sacher Stiftung


In 1969 Robert Craft has published Stravinsky’s Sketchbook for The Rite of Spring. It is difficult to overestimate the significance of this publication which provided important clues about the composer’s compositional process. After Stravinsky’s death, the entire collection of his drafts to the Sacre that were not included in the Sketchbook was given to the Paul Sacher Stiftung. Some of these drafts were published later in various editions as facsimiles or transcriptions; however they are scattered throughout various editions, so that the transcriptions provide divergent readings. The PSS’s collection contains also some hitherto unknown sketches to the Sacre. Should all these drafts be organized in chronological order, they might form a “mini-book of sketches” supplementing the great Sketchbook.

In the present article the sketches for The Rite of Spring from the Basel collection are commented on in detail, dated, attributed, transcribed and analyzed in comparison with the ballet’s full and short scores. The results of this research help clarify the chronology of Stravinsky’s work on The Rite of Spring, shed light on the sources of Stravinsky’s rhythmic designs, and reveal hidden linearity within the complex multi-voiced texture. The sketches exercises constitute a special group of drafts which Stravinsky created in order to elaborate the harmonic transitions in the Introduction to Part II and the Sacrificial Dance (rehearsal numbers 82 and 161).

The notes that Stravinsky made in several copies of the first edition of the score in 1922 complete the sketches collection for The Rite of Spring in the PSS.