In 1806, Beethoven’s Violin Concerto was premiered in Vienna by Franz Clement, who was an extraordinary violinist as well as a composer in his own right. Clement was born in 1780, three years after Beethoven, and when Clement was about 14, Beethoven wrote him a very warm letter telling him that if he went on progressing as magnificently, then he would rise to the highest heights. Some years later, when Beethoven conducted the first public performance of the Eroica, Clement’s own violin concerto played by Clement himself was also in the program.

Howard Shelley, Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra Howard Shelley

The Eroica got a sort of ho-hum reception, but the violin concerto got a wonderful review and seems to have fascinated Beethoven sufficiently to write a piece in the same key and one with considerable similarities. In fact, people think that Clement probably worked quite closely with Beethoven on it.

The first performance had its unconventional side. Apparently, between the first and second movements, Clement played one of his own sonatas, holding the violin upside down and making a bit of a fool of himself. Audiences of the time liked that sort of thing, but...