Suk began to compose his funeral symphony at the beginning of 1905, about eight months after Dvořák's death. The composition was titled after the Old Testament angel of death Asrael. The work is in five movements; the sketches of three movements were finished less than a half year later. On 6 July 1905, while Suk was in the middle of the work, his wife Otilie died. Although the composition was to be also a celebration of Dvořák's life and work, the desolated composer rejected the optimistic tone of the rest of the work. The complete score was finished on 4 October 1906. The work was dedicated "to the exalted memory of Dvořák and Otilie". Suk dedicated the last two movements to Otilie.
The symphony was premièred on 3 February 1907 at the Prague National Theatre, conducted by Karel Kovařovic. Karel Hoffmann and Jiří Herold, members of the Czech Quartet, attended the premiere as the concertmasters of the orchestra of the National Theatre.
Norman Lebrecht has singled out Václav Talich's 1952 recording of the Asrael Symphony with the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra on Supraphon as No. 19 in his list of the 100 best recordings of the century.