The first Vienna Philharmonic Ball was held in 1924, and set precedents which the ball committee has maintained to this day. The ball was held annually from 1924 to 1931. After a hiatus from 1932 through 1948, the ball resumed again in 1949 and became a permanent highlight of the season's festivities. All together it has now been held over 70 times, and was cancelled only once, in 1991, due to the Gulf War.
Anton Wildgans, prominent Austrian poet and director of Vienna's Burgtheater, authored a poem for the ball booklet which was presented to the ladies on that very first evening in 1924. His prologue begins with the introductory words to the orchestra "The homeland loves you, the world honors you", and this tribute has remained over the years an unofficial "Ode to the Philharmonic". Richard Strauss, who collaborated artistically with the orchestra for many years, composed a festive fanfare for the first ball in 1924, and this work has been performed at every ball since that time.
For every ball, a prominent conductor is invited who leads the Philharmonic in a performance of a popular composition from the orchestra's repertoire. In the past, this function has been carried out by conductors such as Claudio Abbado, Leonard Bernstein, Karl Böhm, Willy Boskovsky, Pierre Boulez, Placido Domingo, Christoph Eschenbach, Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Clemens Krauss, Wilhelm Furtwängler, Daniele Gatti, Carlo Maria Giulini, Mariss Jansons, Herbert von Karajan, Carlos Kleiber, Clemens Krauss, Lorin Maazel, Zubin Mehta, Riccardo Muti, Seiji Ozawa, Georges Prêtre, Sir Simon Rattle, Franz Schalk, Sir Georg Solti, Christian Thielemann and Felix Weingartner - all conductors who have been regular guests of the subscription concert series.