Arturo Toscanini originally planned to conduct the work in 1916, but the Italian composer refused to appear for the performance after a disagreement over his having included some of Wagner's music on a program played during World War I.Consequently, it did not premiere until March 11, 1917 at the Teatro Augusteo in Rome with Antonio Guarnieri as conductor. Although the premiere was unsuccessful, Toscanini finally conducted the work in Milan in 1918 with tremendous success.
The piece was first performed in the United States on February 13, 1919. Toscanini recorded the music with the NBC Symphony Orchestra in Carnegie Hall in 1951; the high fidelity recording was issued on LP and then digitally remastered for release on CD by RCA Victor. The work has since become one of the most eminent examples of the symphonic poem.