After the revolution in 1956, the cultural policy in Hungary shifted to allow a new openness toward Western-European movements: consequently 1956–1967 became one of the most important transitional periods of Hungarian music history. Composers turned away from the tradition of the foregoing thirty years, determined by the influence of Bartók and Kodály, imitating rather the works of Schoenberg, Berg, Webern, Boulez, Nono, Lutosławski, Penderecki and Stockhausen. In this context the 78-year-old Zoltán Kodály’s Symphony, written in 1960–1961 for the Swiss Festival Orchestra and dedicated to the memory of Arturo Toscanini, was rejected by the young generation of composers and also Hungarian music critics, who turned themselves for the first time against the much-revered figure of authority. The Symphony’s emphasis on C major, its conventional forms, Brahms-allusions, pseudo self-citations and references to the 19th-century symphonic tradition were also received without comprehension in Western Europe. Kodály’s letters and interviews indicate that the composer suffered disappointment in this negative reception. Drawing on manuscript sources, Kodály’s statements and the Symphony itself, my study argues that the three movements can be read as caricature-like self-portraits of different phases of the composer’s life (the young, the mature and the old) and that Kodály identified himself with the symphonic genre and the C-major scale.