”I came up with the idea for Le Sacre du printemps while I was still composing The Firebird. I pictured a scene of some pagan rite in which a girl who was to be the sacrifice dances herself to death. But this vision came with no specific musical idea at all <…>. In July 1911, after the premiere of Pétrouchka, I travelled to the estate of Princess Tenisheva near Smolensk in order to meet Nicholas Roerich there and compile a stage plan for Le Sacre du printemps. <…> I began to work with Roerich and in a few days’ time the plan of the action onstage and the names of the dances had been worked out. Roerich also made sketches of his famous backdrops, Polovtsian in spirit, as well as sketches for the costumes based on actual examples in the collection of Princess Tenisheva. Apropos, our ballet was called Sacred Spring in Russian. Le Sacre du printemps which Bakst came up with is only suitable for French. In English, the title The Coronation of Spring was closer to my original idea than The Rite of Spring. <…>
The fact that the premiere of Le Sacre du printemps in 1913 was surrounded by scandal is a fact probably known by everyone now. Although, however strange it may seem, I myself was totally unprepared for such an explosion of passions. The reaction of the musicians to orchestral rehearsals had not foretold this, while the plot unfolding on the stage didn’t really seem to justify causing such a riot. The ballet dancers had rehearsed for months and knew what they were doing, although what they were doing often had nothing in common with the music. <…>
The music seemed so normal and close to me, I loved it and could not understand why people who had not even heard it were protesting beforehand. Enraged, I came back-stage where I saw Diaghilev, dimming and then raising the lights in the auditorium – the last means of pacifying the audience. To the very end of the performance I stood back-stage behind Nijinsky, holding him by his tail-coat; he stood on a chair and like a helmsman was shouting out the numbers to the dancers. It is with great pleasure that I recall the first concert performance of Le Sacre du printemps the next year – a triumph that a composer rarely witnesses. Whether the acclamation of the young people who filled the hall of the Paris Casino was something greater than a simple review of the damning verdict announced one year ago in such an ugly fashion is not for me to say, but I thought that they meant something greater.
When composing Le Sacre du printemps I was not being led by any system. When I think about other composers of that time who interested me – about Berg whose talent is synthetic (in the finest sense of the word), Webern who was an analysist and Schoenberg who united both of these qualities – the greater it seems to me that their music is more theoretical than that of Le Sacre du printemps; and these composers were referring to a great tradition, while Le Sacre du printemps had been preceded by very little indeed. It was only my sense of sound that helped me. I heard and wrote down only what I heard. I was the vessel through which Le Sacre du printemps passed".
Igor Stravinsky. Dialogues