The work was premiered on 23 December 1806 in the Theater an der Wien in Vienna. Beethoven wrote the concerto for his colleague Franz Clement, a leading violinist of the day, who had earlier given him helpful advice on his opera Fidelio. The occasion was a benefit concert for Clement. However, the first printed edition (1808) was dedicated to Beethoven’s friend Stephan von Breuning.
It is believed that Beethoven finished the solo part so late that Clement had to sight-read part of his performance. Perhaps to express his annoyance, or to show what he could do when he had time to prepare, Clement is said to have interrupted the concerto between the first and second movements with a solo composition of his own, played on one string of the violin held upside down; however, other sources claim that he did play such a piece but only at the end of the program.
The premiere was not a success, and the concerto was little performed in the following decades.
The work was revived in 1844, well after Beethoven's death, with performances by the then 12-year-old violinist Joseph Joachim with the orchestra conducted by Felix Mendelssohn. Ever since, it has been one of the most important works of the violin concerto repertoire, and it is frequently performed and recorded today.