Passionate as Rachmaninov always is, this symphony is composed of only 3 movements in a cyclic form with references to the plain-chant Dies Irae.
In 1937 the composer wrote: “It was played in New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, etc. At the first two performances I was present. It was played wonderfully. Its reception by both the public and critics was sour.
One review sticks painfully in my mind: that I didn’t have a Third Symphony in me any more. Personally, I am firmly convinced that this is a good work. But sometimes composers are mistaken too!
Be that as it may, I am holding to my opinion so far.”