The Koussevitzky Music Foundation commissioned the Third Symphony and Piston began work on it in 1946 (Carter 1946, 375), completing the score at Woodstock, Vermont, in the summer of 1947. It was premiered on January 9, 1948, by the Boston Symphony Orchestra conducted by Serge Koussevitzky, and the composer dedicated the score to the memory of the conductor's wife, Natalie Koussevitzky. Piston was awarded the 1947 Pulitzer Prize in Music Composition for the Third Symphony (Anon. 1978).
The symphony opens with a slow movement, involving three main themes. This is followed by a scherzo with trio and a slow variation movement. The finale is interpreted by one writer as a celebration of the end of the Second World War (Pollack 1982, 103).
Anon. 1978. Jacket notes, Walter Piston: Symphony No. 3; Howard Hanson: Symphony No. 4. Eastman Rochester Orchestra, Howard Hanson, cond. LP recording. Mercury Golden Imports SRI 75107. (The two symphonies were formerly released separately, in 1954 on Mercury, American Music Festival Series 11 and Golden Lyre Series, MG 50083, and in 1953 on Mercury, American Music Festival Series 5, MG 50077.)