Arbiter of Cultural Traditions is a 401c3 non-profit arts organization founded in 2002 as a means to continue the work of the former Arbiter Recording Company by saving performances of musicians whose work embodies our classical music at its height. Our efforts are critical as the aging survivors of past  traditions are not long for this world and decaying media threatens to lose its sounds: our cultural heritage often hangs by a thread. Western classical musicians we have saved such as as Roman Totenberg, Mieczyslaw Horszowski and Ignace Tiegerman played at the highest musical level of their time, of any time. We spare no effort to locate such music-making wherever it survives.

World Arbiter seeks authentic traditional music from  cultures beyond Western European classical music. The late Teresa Sterne who created Nonesuch’s legendary Explorer series was our guiding light in the beginning. Sterne personally intervened to sharpen and define our methodology. Our vital examples document  traditions with scholarly texts to serve as a musical guide and reference work. Multimedia CD projects go beyond music with extensive PDF and video files when placed in a computer. Arbiter recently received a grant from the Mellon Foundation to restore and publish the entire known surviving recordings of Balinese music made in 1928. The resulting publication effected a repatriation of performances that had remained inaccessible since their release and subsequent destruction.

Many of our downloads contain bonus tracks, many of which were previously unpublished. All are available only as downloads; many CDs also have been completely remastered with new software provided to our studio through a grant. All discs and bonus tracks are listed below in the catalog. CD Orders within the United States are shipped gratis: foreign requests should email us for postage fees:

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Latest Arbiter Records Release

Brahms: Recaptured by Pupils and Colleagues

  • 2 cd set. First publication of recently discovered & lost recordings from 1889-1959. For too long, Brahms has been damaged as a sacred cow mounted on a pedestal. Our newly discovered live and private performances allow all to closely approach Brahms, including a funky improvisation by the composer himself from 1889, to witness a style more Harlem than Habsburg. Nearly all the musicians heard here were in contact with Brahms and play his works as new music: jazzy, as if created on the spot. His lost language is fully revealed here for the first time through their sounds and words. Brahms’ pupil Carl Friedberg even taught Nina Simone, who carried on their tradition. Extensive recorded excerpts from Carl Friedberg’s lessons to Bruce Hungerford are accessible on our website.

Latest World Arbiter Release

Japanese Traditional Music: Songs of People at Work and Play

  • First complete publication ever! The sounds and intensity of Volume Five's folk music surpasses anything heard in their classical music. With Japan's ongoing modernization and loss of its traditional music, our audio restoration removes artifacts from chronological chains to resonate in the eternal flow of sound that defies time and space to remain vital and always in the present.

Latest from the Blog

Ravel’s dream


We’ve been engaged in searching within Russia’s soul and how its classical music grew from a mere dozen into a global phenomenon. Just a miniscule teacher-pupil chain led from the local works of Glinka into the far-fetched paths of Prokofiev, Stravinsky, and Scriabin, the development of conservatories, professional orchestras that wield an influence felt everywhere. All in a half-century of feverish fervor. Their music divided early into a faction seeking to rival the West and take up its theory while another shunned foreign influences to delve into Pagan rites, folk music, fairy tales, the occult, mythic dreams, and explore the unfathomable East.

This give and take was not lost on Ravel and we will close in on a Menuet included in the Tombeau de Couperin to encounter varied approaches. First comes the highly-touted style of Walter Gieseking,

a player upheld as an exemplary master of works by Ravel and Debussy.


The record company’s London producer kept the mic at an Impressionistic distance to muffle snorting caused by the pianist’s nasal polyps, dragging the vinyl’s listeners into a Turneresque landscape.


Next is Marcelle Meyer, who also recorded Ravel’s complete solo piano works. Meyer was very tight with Jean Cocteau and a literary elite, seen here with the poet Raymond Radiguet who died at age twenty-three.

Her performance dates from the time of Gieseking’s:


Madeleine de Valmalète cut her first shellacs in a Berlin studio in 1928, her twenty-ninth year. De Valmalète lived a week beyond her 100th birthday, which she celebrated walking to chat and embrace each and every guest. She was the second woman in France to obtain a driver’s license and the first pianist to record the cycle. (photo at her centennial celebration:)

Her Tombeau is published on Arbiter CD 144:


From Cairo comes Henri Barda, whose family hastily left Egypt during Nasser’s revolution. Settling in Paris he studied with Lazare-Levy after having had lessons with Ignace Tiegerman.

The complete Tombeau from a 2012 concert is on YouTube and within the cavernous hall we experience his Menuet:


For those of you who have troubled to hear all four, we now close in on to the middle section’s climax, a dream within a dream that dissolves into the opening’s return. Here are all four playing this excerpt and note how some will give emphasis to the right hand whereas others show how the left hand creates a rough awakening that bears lingering shards of the oneiric journey, followed by a slower tempo, as if one has need for a moment of regaining consciousness. I leave it to your ears to observe who is doing what and would welcome any comments. . .





de Valmalète:




©Allan Evans 2016