Franz Schubert's song cycle Die schöne Müllerin makes enormous demands not only on the performers but also on its audience, a factor that shaped the early performance history of the work. In this article, the pioneering complete performances of Die schöne Müllerin by the baritone Julius Stockhausen (1826–1906) will be explored, as well as the responses of his audiences, collaborators, and critics. The circumstances surrounding the first complete performance in Vienna's Musikverein on 4 May 1856, more than three decades after the cycle was composed in 1823, will be traced. A survey of subsequent performances reveal two things: within Stockhausen's concert career at least, it was no foregone conclusion that the complete cycle should always be performed; and a performance of the “complete cycle” meant many different things in his day. Stockhausen's artistic idealism jostled against the practical forces that necessarily influenced his approach to recital programming, leading to a multifaceted, untidy performance history for this cycle.

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