Rott composed the symphony’s first movement for the Vienna Conservatory’s
composition contest in the summer of 1878. The work was openly ridiculed by the judges, to the point where Bruckner stood up and rebutted, “Do not laugh, gentlemen, of this man you will heargreat things yet!” The second movement was completed in early fall of 1878. Sketches and drafts of the latter two movements came in the fall of 1879 with the orchestrations in the following summer of 1880.
The newly completed symphony was submitted for the Beethoven Prize and the Ministry of Arts and Education competition in 1880; both were rejected. With persistence, Rott met with the judges, including Karl Goldmark, Edward Hanslick, and Johannes Brahms. According to Rott, Brahms scolded him saying “[the symphony] could not possibly have been composed by himself,” while refusing the score. In a final attempt to justify his work, Rott gave the
manuscript to conductor Hans Richter in hopes of a performance by Richter and the Vienna Philharmonic. Only days before Rott’s mental collapse, Richter kindly acknowledged the symphony, but never performed the work.
In 1890, Mahler decided to borrow the symphony from Rott's close conservatory friends, notably Friedrich Loehr, around the time of his death. Mahler again revisited the score ten years later with an interest in programing the work with the Vienna Philharmonic. However, he withdrew the idea and the symphony was forgotten for nearly a century.