The firm owes its existence to a remarkable family, the Benjamins. For nearly a hundred years the Benjamin company, founded by Joseph Benjamin in 1818 and extended by his son Anton, existed without being a publisher but rather a retail book and music shop.
The firm grew into a major European music publishing house by a series of acquisitions under the leadership of John Benjamin (1868-1931) between 1888 and 1930. The first acquisition, in 1888, was local, the Böhme music shop and concert agency in Hamburg. However, the fastest expansion came amid the economic turmoil of the 1914-30 period, with a series of daring takeovers of major names in music publishing. The first was a local publisher D. Rahter (Hamburg) in 1917, a firm which long before, in 1879 had absorbed the Petersburg company A. Büttner. The headquarters of the company was moved to Leipzig in 1920.
In 1922, the energetic young Richard Schauer (1892-1952), John Benjamin’s nephew, was put in charge of the new headquarters in Leipzig, which had been Europe’s music publishing capital since the 1840s. Benjamin bought A.E. Fischer of Bremen (1925) and the major prize of N. Simrock in 1929. After that, the company was transformed into an incorporated company with more than one hundred employees.
So in 1930 the firm was prosperous, with talented managers: Helene and John Benjamin, and their son Hermann, Richard Schauer, and Rolf Marbot (birth name Albrecht Marcuse), a pianist and popular composer as their legal advisor. The group owned the rights to many major composers’ works, including R. Strauss, Tchaikovsky, Brahms and Dvorak, although the Benjamin imprint itself specialized in music for amateurs. The Benjamin catalogue then contained almost 40,000 editions, including 13,000 by Simrock. Company branches were held in Paris, London and New York.
As for all German businesses with Jewish connections, the 1930s were catastrophic. Hermann Benjamin fled to England and, in spite of working with B. Feldman to found the British Standard Music Company Ltd, committed suicide in 1936, after which his widow and two children returned to Germany, but did not survive the war.
Marbot (1906-74) found refuge in Paris, where he founded Editions Méridian in 1936, but spent the war years hiding in the south of France.
Richard Schauer, who had unsuccessfully tried to manage the transfer of the firm to a consortium of non-jewish music editors, was expropriated in 1938 and then fled to England with his family.
In his new home Schauer met with more success, founding the popular music publisher Schauer & May in 1940. However, he by no means forgot his former employer; in 1943 Schauer founded Richard Schauer Music Publishers in London to continue Benjamin’s work.
Back in Germany the Nazi regime, under its “Arianization” policy, forced the sale of the firm in 1938 to Sikorski who renamed it Dr. Hans C. Sikorski KG Leipzig. However, in 1943 the buildings of the publishing house in Leipzig were bombarded by the allies. The archives, all music and printing plates perished in a three weeks' fire. After the war, the only resources of the company were copyrights.
Happier times came after the war. Marbot in Paris took French nationality and had a successful career in popular music publishing at Editions Méridian dealing with all the major chanson singers of the 40s and 50s. As soon as possible Richard Schauer Music Publishers published Benjamin’s catalog in England and the US (including Czech (formerly Simrock editions) and Russian (formerly Rahter editions) works). Schauer finally recovered the company rights in 1951, but only survived this happy event by a year. In 1952, the company found itself back in Hamburg under the name of Anton J. Benjamin GmbH.
After the Fall of the Wall, parts of the former music archive, such as had not been stored in the Leipzig company buildings during the 1943 attacks, were transferred to the headquarters in Hamburg.
Schauer’s widow Rosel Schauer (-1995) entrusted the company to her resourceful daughter Irene Retford (1921-2009), who, after steering Benjamin through fifty years of major changes in the world of music, finally sold it to Boosey & Hawkes in 2002.
Benjamin's plate numbers are in the format of A.J.B. ####. Dates in italics are estimated.
|670||Hässler||Piano Sonata, Op.6||1873|
|679||Hässler||Der Seekönig, ballade||1874|
|693||Christern, J. W.||Der Hochzeitsmorgen, Op.13||1874|
|1326||Lange||Stille Wünsche, Op.57|
|1685||Fetrás||Carmen Marsch, Op.137||1906|
|2408-17||Schytte||10 Kleine Plaudereien||1909|
|3466||Berwald||Symphony No.4 (first ed. sc)||1911|
|4261||Wagner||5 Gedichte für eine Frauenstimme, WWV 91 (No.1 arr. violin & piano by Seybold)||1914|
|4406||Fetrás||Mondnacht auf der Alster, Op.60 (arr. for piano)||1927|
|4771||Pente||Caprice hongrois, Op.4 (new edition)||1928|
|5133||Abt||3 Lieder, Op.204 (No.3)|
|5204||Richards||Engels Traum, Op.110|
|5251||Fetrás||Mondnacht auf der Alster, Op.60 (arr. for orchestra)||1932|
|8285-8287||Stravinsky||4 Etudes, Op.7||1925|
|8314-5, 8319-20||Prokofiev||4 Pieces for Piano, Op.4||1925|