Prokofiev began work on the concerto as early as 1913 when he wrote a theme with variations which he then set aside. Although he revisited the sketches in 1916–17, he did not fully devote himself to the project until 1921 when he was spending the summer in Brittany.
Prokofiev himself played the solo part at the premiere on 16 December 1921 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra conducted by Frederick Stock. The work did not gain immediate popularity and had to wait until 1922 to be confirmed in the 20th century canon, after Serge Koussevitzky conducted a lavishly praised performance in Paris. The first Soviet performance was on 22 March 1925, by Samuil Feinberg, with the Orchestra of the Theatre of the Revolution under Konstantin Saradzhev.