Anton J. Benjamin
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 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 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, 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 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 family returned to Germany and 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 consortium of non-jewish music editors, was expropriated in 1938 and then fled to England with his family. He met with more success , founding the popular music publisher Schauer & May in 1940. However, 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 to Sikorski in 1938. In 1943 the buildings of the publishing house in Leipzig where bombarded by the allies. The archives, all music and printing plates perished in a three weeks fire. After the war, the only resource of the company where copyrights.
Happier times came after the war. Marbot had a successful career in popular music publishing. 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, which had not been stored in the Leipzig company bulidins during the 1943-attack, 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 and Hawkes in 2002.
- Böhme, Hamburg (1931)
- Massute, Frankfurt a.d. Oder
- Thiemer, Berlin
- D. Rahter, Hambug (1917)
- A.E. Fischer, Bremen (1925)
- N. Simrock, Berlin (1929)
Imprints, Addresses, Agencies
- from 1818 to 1920: Anton J. Benjamin, Alterwall 66, Hamburg
- from 1920 on: Leipzig
- from 1952 on: Anton J. Benjamin GmbH, Hamburg
- Anton J. Benjamin
- Sadie, Stanley. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians
- New York and London: Macmillan Publications, 1980.
- Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart. 2., neu bearb. Ausg. ed. Ludwig Finscher. Kassel: Bärenreiter, Stuttgart: Metzler 2006. Personenteil Bd. 2, S.1115-1117