This piece was dedicated to Empress Alexiewna of Russia, to whom it was presented. Afterward, Beethoven was given fifty ducats, a substantial sum at the time for a single piano composition of modest length. But the gift to the Empress seems also have accounted for the payment made by her husband, Tsar Alexander I, of one-hundred-fifty ducats, more or less owed to Beethoven for 12 years for the three violin sonatas of Op. 30 (Nos. 6, 7 and 8), which were dedicated to the Russian ruler.
This work begins with a cadenza-like passage, a not-too-distant cousin of the one that opens the "Emperor Concerto" (Piano Concerto No. 5). Could the allusion to that 1809 work be deliberate? It is especially intriguing to conjecture so, since the polonaise was dedicated to an "Empress," and the concerto had probably gotten its famous nickname before 1814. In any event, when the polonaise proper begins, Beethoven proves his deft skills in the realm of this famous Polish dance form. The theme might have fit well in an early Chopin polonaise, but Beethoven's treatment is a bit more energetic and driven than what Chopin would generally produce. The middle section here features some brisk rhythms, and just before the close, a brief snippet from the opening cadenza appears -- here the allusion to the "Emperor Concerto" sounds even more pronounced. The mood of the piece is joyous and elegant throughout, though not as elegant as Chopin's works in the genre. If this piece is not one of the composer's great masterworks, it is nonetheless a rousing effort. The work was first published in Vienna in 1815. A typical performance of it lasts about five to six minutes.