Much controversy and confusion surround the composition of this quintet. While it carries a numerically early opus number, it is adapted from the Octet, Op. 103, which was probably written in the early-1790s and certainly no later than November, 1792 (the time when Beethoven departed Bonn for Vienna). This latter piece, one of the composer's very early works despite its high opus number, was published in 1837, a decade after Beethoven's death, at which time, for some reason, it was assigned the misleading numbering.
The controversy hardly ends here, however. The Quintet has been viewed as a mere transcription or arrangement of the Octet, which it clearly is not. Some assert an entirely opposite view, that it is a thoroughly reworked and enlarged version of the earlier piece, virtually becoming a new composition altogether. The latter view is closer to the truth, though it would be hard to fully accept the notion that the quintet is a wholly new composition. Naturally, there is substantial reallocation of themes in the work, including pitch adjustments. And there is a score of other changes.
But the structure of this piece is considerably different, as well: in the first movement, there are significant changes in the exposition and substantial ones in the development, reprise, and ending. The ensuing Andante employs new themes and involves significant changes in the ones retained. The Scherzo and finale are also substantially different: among other alterations, a second trio was added to the former and a new alternate theme was inserted in the latter.
The movements of the quintet are marked: 1) Allegro con brio; 2) Andante; 3) Menuetto--Allegro; 4) Presto. These are, more or less, the same tempo indications given for the Octet, and while the Quintet retains much of the lightness and color from its source work, it is, in the end, a somewhat deeper composition. The instrumental writing is on a high level throughout and the structure and handling of the themes reflect a more mature compositional style.
This work was first published in Vienna in 1796.