After composing his first three orchestral tone poems in a frenzy of activity at the opening of 1896, Antonín Dvorák took several months off to do other things before starting work on his fourth, The Wild Dove, Op. 110, in late October. The premiere of the work, which took place the following March, was conducted by a then up-and-coming Leos Janacek -- but, of course, by the late 1890s Dvorák was one of Europe's most established musicians, and Janacek's name is by no means the most prominent among those who conducted the premieres of Dvorák's five tone poems; Hans Richter, Henry Wood, and Gustav Mahler make fine podium peers!
The Wild Dove (or, The Wood Dove), like Dvorák's first three tone poems, takes a poem by Karol Jaromír Erben as its dramatic starting point. Four musical "scenes" relate the story of a woman who poisons her husband (there is a grim funeral march) to wed another man (everything grows bright and a happy dance commences), and when she hears a gentle dove-call above her dead husband's grave, her suppressed guilt is brought to the surface and she takes her own life (an Andante in which the dove is heard in the winds and harp). Dvorák adds a musical epilogue after the sordid tale has run its course.