'''Symphony No. 1''' in D minor, his Op. 13, was composed between January and October 1895 at his Ivanovka estate near Tambov, Russia. Despite its poor initial reception the symphony is now seen as a dynamic representation of the Russian symphonic tradition, with British composer Robert Simpson calling it "a powerful work in its own right, stemming from Borodin and Tchaikovsky, but convinced, individual, finely constructed, and achieving a genuinely tragic and heroic expression that stands far above the pathos of his later music."Simpson, ''The Symphony'', 2:129-30.
The premiere, which took place in St. Petersburg on March 28, 1897, was an absolute disaster for reasons which included under-rehearsal and the poor performance of the conductor Alexander Glazunov. Rachmaninoff subsequently suffered a psychological collapse but did not destroy or attempt to disown the score.Bertenssohn and Leyva, 144-145; Norris, ''Rachmaninoff'', 97. It was left in Russia when he went into exile in 1917 and subsequently lost.Norris, ''Rachmaninoff'', 23. In 1944, after the composer's death, the separate instrumental parts of the symphony were discovered and were used to reconstruct the full score. The symphony's second performance took place at the Moscow Conservatory on October 17, 1945, conducted by Aleksandr Gauk. Following a general reassessment of Rachmaninoff's music the First Symphony has been performed frequently and recorded several times.Harrison, 82.