The Austrian Philharmonic was preceded in production by a gold bullion series. The gold series had apparently been in production for a few years when the Austrian mint perceived a void in the market. Various countries have been producing silver bullion issues for two decades or more but the Euro-zone countries hadn't been making anything comparable. There seems to have been the perception that it was time Europe got in on the action. They used a design almost identical to the gold coins and essentially the same name in order to play off the established reputation of the gold coins and get the silver issues into the market sooner.
By taking advantage of the gold coins the silver issues were brought to market remarkably quickly. Only about 6 months passed from the time the mint decided to make the coins, in late 2007, to the time the coins were launched at a major money show in February of 2008.
The coin uses the relatively unusual denomination of 1.5 Euros. Apparently the 1 and 2 Euro denominations are reserved exclusively for circulating coinage by international regulation so those could not be used for a bullion issue. It was felt that a 5 Euro denomination would come dangerously close to being higher than the bullion value of the silver. 1.5 Euros was therefore selected, partially because France had also been using that denomination for some of its commemorative issues.
The coin honors the Viena Philharmonic Orchestra, a very significant cultural icon to the Austrian people. It is generally held to be one of the finest orchestras in the world. Members are chosen from the Orchestra of the Vienna State Opera. All members must prove themselves by playing for the opera for at least 3 years as part of a long application process. Subscription ticket demand for the orchestra is so great that waiting lists are given with wait times of 6 years or more. This is certainly a testament to the orchestra's massive worldwide popularity.