For the first Bayreuth Festival in 1876 Wagner assembled his own special orchestra, whereas for the first performances of Parsifal at the second Festival in 1882, the Munich Court Theatre Orchestra and Chorus were placed at his disposal by King Ludwig II of Bavaria. The Munich forces also performed at the 1883 and 1884 Festivals. (There was no Festival in 1885.) For the 1886 Bayreuth Festival, a special orchestra made up of the finest players from other ensembles was once again formed, a tradition that has been perpetuated down to the present day. Some two hundred musicians from leading German and international orchestras assemble each summer for the Bayreuth Festival. Although its members are on annual contracts, there are many who have been working in Bayreuth over a period of several years and who have come to regard the town as their second artistic home. The current programme book contains photographs of all the individual musicians.
Recommended reading: Alfred Sous, Das Bayreuther Festspielorchester: Geschichte und Gegenwart (Ansporn Verlag: Hof 1988); a revised edition, renamed Das Bayreuther Festspielorchester: Geschichte, Geschichten und Anekdoten von damals bis heute, was published by Robert Lienau Verlag of Frankfurt am Main in 1997.