- Molto agitato – Tranquillo e misterioso (D minor – all keys are "more or less".)
- Allegretto capriccioso (F minor)
- Adagio tranquillo ed espressivo (B-flat minor)
- Allegramente (D major)
The symphony is dedicated "To the Memory of Franklin Delano Roosevelt", who died while Sessions was composing the Adagio tranquillo. The score is dated "Princeton-Gambier-Berkeley, 1944–46" – it was begun in Princeton, work continued at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, and finished at the University of California at Berkeley.
Though the work was originally commissioned by the Ditson Fund of Columbia University, the premiere, under Pierre Monteux and the San Francisco Symphony, took place 9–11 January 1947. It received its New York City premiere three years later, on January 12, 1950.
Andrea Olmstead describes all of Sessions's symphonies as "serious" and "funereal".
- Dimitri Mitropoulos/Philharmonic-Symphony Orchestra of New York (Columbia Masterworks 10-inch LP ML 2120, monaural, 1950; reissued on Composers Recordings Inc., 12-inch LP CRI SD 278, 1972; resissued on CD, CRI CD 573, 1990)
- Herbert Blomstedt/San Francisco Symphony (London CD, 1994)
- Prausnitz, pp.220, note p. 312
- Steinberg, p. 529
- Sessions quoted in Steinberg, p. 529
- Canarina, p. 168.
- "New York Philharmonic Archives Viewer – Program Notes for first New York Performance". 1950-01-12. Retrieved 2013-12-01.
- Olmstead, Andrea (2012). Roger Sessions: A Biography, p.356. Routledge. ISBN 9781135868925.
- Canarina, John (2003). Pierre Monteux, maître at Google Books, with a preface by Neville Marriner. Pompton Plains, NJ, and Cambridge, UK: Amadeus Press. ISBN 1-57467-082-4.
- Prausnitz, Frederik (2002). Roger Sessions: How a "Difficult" Composer Got That Way at Google Books. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-510892-2.
- Steinberg, Michael (1998). The Symphony: A Listener's Guide at Google Books. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-512665-3.
- Danchenka, Gary Robert (1981). "Quantitative Measurement of Information Content via Recurring Associations in Three Movements of Symphony No. 2 by Roger Sessions". Ph.D. diss. Coral Gables: University of Miami.
- Imbrie, Andrew (1972). "The Symphonies of Roger Sessions". Tempo (new series), no. 103 (December): 24–32.
- Kress, Steven Morton (1982). "Roger Sessions, Composer and Teacher: A Comparative Analysis of Roger Sessions' Philosophy of Educating Composers and His Approach to Composition in Symphonies No. 2 and 8". PhD diss. Gainesville: University of Florida.
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