Bülow's Meiningen years
In October of 1873, the Duchess of Heldburg, wife of Duke Georg II of Saxony-Meiningen, invited her former piano teacher Hans von Bülow to Meiningen to perform his famed interpretation of Beethoven's sonatas for her and the duke. Two months later, around Christmas of 1873, Bülow was once again a guest at Meiningen Castle and conducted the Court Orchestra for the first time.
After Hans von Bülow became Meiningen's Court Orchestra Director in 1880, the orchestra entered its most successful phase, developing into one of Europe's elite ensembles under Bülow's reform of the symphonic concert. Together with Georg II, reigning Duke since 1866, Bülow brought influential composers such as Richard Wagner and Johannes Brahms to the court for collaborative projects. The premiere of Brahms' 4th Symphony, for example, took place in Meiningen. Under Bülow's baton, the orchestra began traveling extensively after 1881, playing a total of 200 public concerts throughout Germany and in many other European countries. Brahms himself conducted the orchestra on several occasions during this time, as well as accompanying the ensemble on the Rhineland Tour of 1885.
In 1885, when Hans von Bülow accepted a position in Hamburg and simultaneously became chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, 21-year old Richard Strauss took over the baton in Meiningen. He was to be followed by Fritz Steinbach (1886–1903), and Wilhelm Berger (1903-1911), who continued in Bülow's tradition, taking the orchestra on tour through Holland, Switzerland, Denmark, England, and Bohemia.