In October 1873, Freifrau von Heldburg, the 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, he was once again a guest at Meiningen Castle and conducted the Court Orchestra for the first time.
After Hans von Bülow became Meiningen's Hofkapellmeister in 1880, the Court 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 their 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 followed by Fritz Steinbach (1886–1903) and Wilhelm Berger (1903-1911), who continued Bülow's tradition, taking the orchestra on tour through Holland, Switzerland, Denmark, England and Bohemia.