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Many of our downloads contain bonus tracks, many of which were previously unpublished.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

Debussy’s Traces

  • 2 cd set with many first publications. Arbiter has uncovered unknown performances by musicians who reached Debussy's inner life moreso than those accepted as his emblematic interpreters. Marius-François Gaillard played Debussy's piano music from memory, starting in 1920 when he was twenty, receiving praise from Mme. Debussy. Each work explores an enigma that reveals itself through its individuality. Horszowski heard the composer play and brings his experience into pieces that he performed for over eighty years. Marik played the composer during her entire life and had been close to Bartók, who often performed Debussy's music. Fourneau, a lost master, takes a late work to an unprecedented height. Our restorations of Debussy himself at the piano with Mary Garden capture 1904 sounds that have finally become audible. Gailliard's Debussy recordings include early works, Suite Bergamasque, Pour le Piano, Estampes, nine Préludes, and others. Marik plays two Préludes and En Blanc et Noir. Horszowski is heard in Children's Corner Suite and Fourneau in a late Étude. Most of the recordings are published for the first time and Gaillard's Debussy receives its first restoration from original shellac discs. An extensive 1910 interview is included in the notes and more material will be added to a Debussy section hosted 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

Ancestor worship

Franz Liszt (1811-1886) visited Russia a few times and helped their new music scene’s innovators get exposure abroad. One of their local instigators and gurus was Vladimir Vasilievich Stasov (1824-1906) who aimed to further Musorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Borodin, Cui, and others. Pithy writings and access to rare books as a state librarian allowed him to obtain works that went into their pipeline, resulting in Rimsky-Korsakov’s Sadko and Borodin’s central Asian exploits.

Left: Maxim Gorki, Vladimir Stasov, Ilya Repin and Natalia Nordman in Kuokkala 1904.

Stasov brought to light a letter of Liszt’s that offers a creator’s perspective on Beethoven. Before media brought music into people’s lives one had to attend a concert or try your luck at home with sheet music. Liszt could not resist transcribing Beethoven’s nine symphonies and making a second arrangement for two pianos to capture the chorus and more in the last work:

Liszt often played the “Hammerklavier” piano sonata (Op. 106) to astonished guests. Bear this in mind when reading what Stasov shared with his circle and how Liszt’s letter liberates his current entombment as a mere piano jockey:

For us musicians the work of Beethoven is like the pillar of cloud and fire which guided the Israelites through the desert. Had I to classify the different periods of this great musician’s thought, as expressed in his sonatas, symphonies and quartets, I would not stop at dividing them into three styles, a procedure adopted by almost everyone nowadays, but, bearing in mind the questions raised thus far, I would weigh candidly the great question around which all musical criticism and aesthetics revolves at this point to which Beethoven has led us: namely, to what extent does traditional or conventional form determine the thought process.

The answer to this question, implicit in Beethoven’s works themselves, would lead me to divide them not into three styles or periods (these terms are only vague and confusing) but into two categories: the first, that in which traditional and conventional form constricts and governs the composer’s thought; and the second, that in which the thought expands, breaks, recreates and forges the form and style to fit its needs and inspirations. To be sure, we thus come face to face with the eternal problems of authority and freedom. But why should they frighten us? In the realm of the liberal arts, they, fortunately, entail none of the dangers or disasters which occur as consequences of changes in the social and political world.

Allan Evans ©2018