In 1808 Frankfurter Bürger founded the museum, a society for the "care of the Muses" and for the promotion of the fine arts: literature, fine art and sound art. Among the founders of the museum were the librarian of Prince Prince Carl Theodor of Dalberg, Nikolaus Vogt, Clemens Wenzeslaus Coudray, and the town architect Johann Friedrich Christian Hess. The statutes of the association limited the number of members to 150. Since its founding, the society has also performed symphonic music in its events, which are designated as a large museum. For this purpose the orchestra of the Frankfurt Comoedienhaus was obliged, the later Opernorchester.
The Frankfurt musical life after the Napoleonic Wars took a great boost. In 1817 Louis Spohr took over the direction of the orchestra, chairman of the museum society was in the same year the pastor and historian Anton Kirchner. From 1821 to 1848, Carl Guhr directed the orchestra. When he died in July of the year of revolution in 1848, the Museum Society decided to appoint its own director of the musical class. The town orchestra had thus for the first time two directors: Kapellmeister of the theater was Louis Schindelmeisser, while Franz Messer, since 1837 head of the Cäcilienverein, now also the Museumskonzerte headed. Until 1924, the municipal orchestra retained two artistic directors, one for the theater and one for the concert.
The Museumskonzerte in the Saalbau
After 1848, the Museum Society concentrated more and more on music, although until 1886 it organized lectures with speakers such as Felix Dahn, Alfred Brehm and Richard von Helmholtz. From 1832 to 1860, the Museumskonzerte was held in the large dining room of the Hotel Weidenbusch in the Steinweg, which offered space for 1000 visitors. In 1851 the Städel took over the important painting collections.
In 1860 Carl Müller took over the direction of the Museumskonzerte, who was also successor to Messers as conductor of the Cäcilienverein. In 1861, the company's concerts were relocated to the newly constructed Saalbau in the Junghofstraße and thus made accessible to a wide public.
The hall building, a work of the Frankfurt architect Heinrich Burnitz, had a concert hall with 1800 seats and a small hall for lectures and chamber concerts, as well as the necessary additional rooms, as well as a banquet hall in the bridge building over the Junghofstraße. The large hall, measuring 42 to 24 meters, was 14 meters high and had excellent acoustics. On 18 November 1861 he was opened with a solemn performance of the creation of Joseph Haydn. For eight decades, until his destruction in 1944, he remained the center of Frankfurt's concert life.
In addition to the orchestral concerts, the chamber music series was founded in 1870, where Johannes Brahms performed several times as a pianist and performed some of his works for the world premiere. Since 1887 Richard Strauss (1864-1949) has often directed the Museumskonzerte. His symphonic poems So Zarathustra (1896) and Eine Heldenleben (1899) were premiered here, he conducted the Symphonia domestica here in 1904 at the European premiere.
In 1891, Carl Müller retired. In the election of his successor, the personal union with the Cecilienverein, which had become a tradition, was broken through for the first time. Gustav Kogel took over the Museumskonzerte, while the August Grüters recommended by Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) became head of the Cecilia Chorus. Kogel modernized the program of the Museumskonzerte, with works by contemporary and foreign composers such as Tchaikovsky, Bruckner, Strauss and Dvořák. Only one soloist was invited per concert evening, the orchestral works were now in the foreground.
In 1903 Kogel took his leave. The museum chose Siegmund von Heimgger as his successor, who went to Munich in 1906. During the period between 1907 and 1920 under the leadership of Willem Mengelberg (1871-1951), the Museumskonzerte experienced a flourishing period. Between 1915 and 1922 the composer Paul Hindemith also sat as a concertmaster at the first desk.
Mengelberg, after a conflict with the press in 1920, followed a two-year interregnum, during which Wilhelm Furtwangler conducted 16 museum concerts. But he did not accept the reputation of the museum society, which would have liked to win him as chief chef, but went instead to Berlin. Thereupon the museum entrusted its concerts to the young conductor Hermann Scherchen, a brilliant musician, but with his commitment to the then unusual new music of Arnold Schoenberg, Igor Stravinsky or Paul Hindemith disturbed the audience. In 1924 Scherchen turned away from the Museum Society and from the newly founded Frankfurter Orchesterverein.