When beginning to write the piece, Bernstein stated that Auden's poem was "one of the most shattering examples of pure virtuosity in the history of English poetry" and that a "composition of a symphony based on The Age of Anxiety acquired an almost compulsive quality." Having won the Pulitzer Prize in 1948, "The Age of Anxiety" Bernstein lauded the piece, saying "When I first read the book I was breathless." Bernstein worked on the composition "in Taos, Philadelphia, Richmond, Mass., in Tel-Aviv, in planes, in hotel lobbies..." Though titled as such, “The Age of Anxiety” bucks the traditional form of a symphony. Instead of a conventional four-movement, exclusively orchestral work, Bernstein scored it for solo piano and orchestra, and divided the piece into six subsections – mirroring Auden’s text – split equally into two parts that are performed without pause. He completed the piece on March 20, 1949 in New York City. Unsatisfied with the ending of the composition, Bernstein revised it in 1965 to firmly establish his idea for the true ending. The work was dedicated to and commissioned by Serge Koussevitzky who was preparing to end his 25-year career conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

Date of composition 1949 (revised in 1965) in US and Israel
Premiered 1949, April 8th in Boston, MA, United States by Leonard Bernstein
Type Symphony
Approx. duration 32 minutes
Instruments Orchestra
Autotranslations beta Leonard Bernstein: Symphonie n°2 "The Age of Anxiety"
Leonard Bernstein: Sinfonia n. 2 "The Age of Anxiety"
Leonard Bernstein: Sinfonie Nr. 2 "The Age of Anxiety"