Beethoven came to Vienna in 1792 to study with Haydn, who remained his teacher until Haydn left for England in 1794. Haydn then arranged for him to continue his studies with Johann Albrechtsburger, a noted teacher of counterpoint. Many of Beethoven’s exercises survive and they show him as having trouble with the subtleties of the rules of counterpoint. His teacher described him as so bent on having his own way that he had to learn many things through hard experience, which he had refused earlier to accept through instruction. He had three lessons a week from this stern teacher, as well as thrice-weekly violin lessons from Schuppanzigh. All this instruction left little time for completing new works, but for 1795 Beethoven had different plans: This year must determine the complete man – nothing must remain undone.
The works completed in 1795 include the three piano trios Op.1, the three Op.2 piano sonatas, the String Trio Op.3, two extended songs including Adelaide and the C major Piano Concerto. His plan was to publish these works in quick succession, thus making a determined assault on the Viennese public, who already knew him as a virtuoso pianist. This was so successful that Beethoven made enough money from this one venture to live on for the next year. The set of trios was dedicated to his patron Prince Lichnowsky, who ordered no fewer than twenty copies.
The grand and elevated style of these trios is in direct contrast to those of Haydn and Mozart, which are much more domestic affairs. This was probably the reason for Haydn’s famous criticism of the C minor Trio. The richness of the texture, the elegance of the melodies and the urgency of the rhythmic drive all set these trios apart from what had gone before. Beethoven at this early stage in his career is already employing specific features that we associate with the mature composer. He uses lengthy codas to resolve thematic instabilities; he adds a scherzo to the traditional three movements; he sets out to explore remote key relationships and to contrast a wide range of moods; and he always seems to be looking at the far side of the horizon.