If LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN‘s early piano concertos still reflect certain discernible influences of his predecessors, the FOURTH CONCERTO is already a work uniquely individualized, both stylistically and in terms of melodic types and piano virtuosity. The work matured between 1804 and 1807, a period that saw the creation of such opuses as the Fourth,Fifth and Sixth symphonies, the Fantasy for Piano, Choir and Orchestra and the Mass in C-major. In May 1807 the composer introduced the concerto at a private performance in the palace of one of his patrons, Prince Franz Joseph von Lobkowitz. However, while engaged with the preparation of the public premiere performance of the concerto at an author‘s academy on 22 December 1808 at the Theater an der Wien, Beethoven recognised the handicap of his deteriorating hearing and offered Ferdinand Ries to play the concerto. But since there were only five days before the Academy started, Ries was afraid he would not be able to master the complicated piano part and suggested that the Third Concerto replace the Fourth on the program. Having construed the refusal as a tacit disapproval for the work, the composer took offense and turned to Friedrich Stein, but he also revoked his commitment at the last minute.
Then Beethoven himself had to give the first presentation of his own work in what was to become his last public performance. The same evening saw the premiere performances of the tfantasy for Piano, Choir and Orchestra (the Choral tfantasy), of the tfifth and Sixth Symphonies. The concerto, dedicated to Archduke Rudolph – a friend, pupil and patron of Beethoven, immediately drew tremendous admirations and was evaluated in Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung as „the most admirable, singular, artistic and complex Beethoven concerto ever.“ But following the premiere the work fell into neglect until 1836, when Mendelssohn gave it such a brilliant performance in Leipzig that Schumann, who was in attendance, later reported that he was listening „without breathing, without moving a muscle.“