He studied at the Leipzig conservatory. He went to Saint Petersburg to play in the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra. In 1872 he returned to Germany and conducted an orchestra called the Berlin Symphony Orchestra. He then started an orchestra called Neue Berliner Symphoniekapelle. In 1882 he became the first conductor of a new orchestra, the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, which was soon to become one of the world's best orchestras.