The manuscript is dated 5 January 1791. However, Alan Tyson's analysis of the paper on which Mozart composed the work indicated that Mozart used this paper between December 1787 and February 1789, which implies composition well before 1791. Simon Keefe has written that the composition of the work dates from 1788. By contrast, Wolfgang Rehm (de) has stated that Mozart composed this concerto in late 1790 and early 1791. Cliff Eisen has discussed the controversy over the time of composition in his review of the published facsimile of the score.
The work followed by some years the series of highly successful concertos Mozart wrote for his own concerts, and by the time of its premiere Mozart was no longer so prominent a performer on the public stage. The concerto may have been first performed at a concert on 4 March 1791 in Jahn's Hall by Mozart and the clarinetist Joseph Beer. If so, this was Mozart's last appearance in a public concert, as he took ill in September 1791 and died on 5 December 1791. Another possibility is that it was premiered by Mozart's pupil Barbara Ployer on the occasion of a public concert at the Palais Auersperg in January 1791.