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Many of our downloads contain bonus tracks, many of which were previously unpublished.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:

info /at/

Latest Arbiter Records Release

163 cover mini

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

Latest from the Blog

Fragments: a chain of threads

Fragments lead everywhere, usually to the unanticipated. Even our naming as Arbiter was the inevitable result of being irresistibly drawn into the arbiter Petronius’s Satyricon, a strew of incomplete episodes ending unresolved, like our pathetic grasp of history as a permanence but always in a constant overturning of the pecking order.


Sometimes we catch a waft of something as thrilling as it is fleeting and unattainable, such as festive music caught and captured over the Adriatic from a then-closed Albania:


In contrast is the American middle class’ angst in feeling left out as everyone else is busy having all the fun, with one’s only recourse lying in addictive consumption.


While some meditated on the errant Brad, a thrilling excitement hit New York in 1941 when the nineteen-year-old pianist William Kapell appeared with his debut solo recital.


Fragments made it through time and one offers his conclusion to Bach’s Fugue in C-sharp minor (Book I), a work he didn’t record later on but these moments open onto an already substantial artistry that would deepen for another dozen years.


In the mid 1930’s Max Fiedler’s remarkable conducting was carried over Germany’s airwaves. Pegged as a Brahms specialist, very few have attained his state of a Haydn set forth in Berlin for his final 45 seconds of the 88th symphony:



One voyeruistic fragment provoked our “featured image” as a backstage employee in Philadelphia dialed up Bell Labs who were trying to discover if a phone could transmit the music happening then on stage. Until recently, some phone lines echoed all the words and notes here we suffer from it as well since Rachmaninoff

Screen Shot 2015-09-05 at 4.12.22 PM

never allowed a single note from any of his concerts to ever be aired and here he’s caught magisterially laying down the final seven bars of Brahms’s Ballade Op. 10, No.4. . .


Along with Rachmaninoff’s official playing etched onto approved recordings, his compositions are usually obscured through a nostalgic cult-like worshipping they receive. What a startling contrast to happen upon a performer who exposes the internal visions of the composer’s Prelude in G, Op. 32, No.5, resurrecting lost feelings and their intangible existence. Years ago I’d receive a formal phone call annually from an elderly White Russian residing somewhere in a Siberian clime up north in Canada, beseeching me to seek out each and every surviving piano performance left by his adored Nikolai Orloff.

Orloff Sveresborg

He mainly emphasized that paying homage was a duty, to respect Orloff’s noble origins. His Romanoff-tinged nostalgic exhortations rang true when I fished out a paper reel of tape from the archive of a recording angel who had lived Taranto, Italy. He partially captured a 1954 Rome recital that bore a playing that proved to be quite noble. So now off to scramble and draw in more from Time’s magnetic web that leads to the essence of Orloff’s real life – one he lived on stage, as his studio playing is distracted, dragging his voltage lower.


©Allan Evans 2015