After studying at the Leipzig Conservatory, Erdmannsdörfer became concertmaster at Sonderhausen. In 1882 he became the principal conductor of the Russian Musical Society concerts in Moscow, and professor at the Moscow Conservatory. Tchaikovsky considered him to be "a very skillful, experienced and expert conductor", although he was "inclined to indulge the public's taste of exaggerated nuances" and "offhanded in his attitude to Russian music (except my own)" .
In 1874 he married the pianist and composer Pauline Fichtner (b. Oprawill, 1847–1916).
The list of Tchaikovsky's works premiered by Erdmannsdörfer includes the Symphony No. 1 (revised version, 1883), Suite No. 2 (1884), Concert Fantasia (1885), and the symphony Manfred (1886), The composer valued Erdmannsdörfer's arrangement of his Chant sans paroles (No. 3 from Souvenir de Hapsal, Op. 2) so highly that Tchaikovsky conducted it himself in 1892.
Tchaikovsky's Works Dedicated to Max Erdmannsdörfer
- Suite No. 3 in G major, Op. 55 (1884).
Correspondence with Tchaikovsky
2 letters from Tchaikovsky to Max Erdmannsdörfer have survived, dating from the late 1880s:
3 letters from Erdmannsdörfer to the composer, also dating from the late 1880s, are preserved in the Klin House-Museum Archive.