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Many of our downloads contain bonus tracks, many of which were previously unpublished.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

Debussy’s ear dives into Boris

That’s it. Just sit and pretend nothing’s going on. You’re probably hearing something from a recent opera that you found out about some ten or more years ago and heard it in the flesh. This is who’s at fault! Some Russian who died before the Baroness von Meck brought you over there as a tutor.

Then your opera arrived and all the new experts were saying how much Boris Godunov influenced it, a silly idea that you quashed at once as these damn new fans start deciding your identity. But we’re going inside your head for a little adventure into the ending of your Pelléas et Melisande’s Scene 1:

Look at that expression! Poor photo image but we see what you’re up to!

Someone who knew you wasn’t fooled! D.E. Inghelbrecht had dinners with you and premiered your Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian and a short piece. He heard you play piano and talked about you at times on a weekly French radio program given over an eight year period, the last one taking place about a month before his death at age 85 in 1965.

Inghelbrecht often conducted your opera and here’s the finale from Scene 1:


Right away we smell Musorgsky! And Maestro Inghel was the first to perform the original version of Boris in Paris, having gained access to the original in a Soviet Archive in the 1920s.

We land onto the music preceding Pimen’s monologue as he puts the finishing touches onto his manuscript on how Boris murdered the infant heir to the throne in Uglich:


And what happened to our Debussy? Hear what he did!


Later when a striking clock sends Boris into an apoplectic fit that leads to insanity, the music dramatically introduces a new mood:


And right after Debussy’s taking on Pimen’s cowl he leaps into the musical madness but in a subdued fashion:


As if to put people off his train, Debussy thinks of the early coronation scene that begins soon after the police begin to beat the wretched populace with their knouts to fall in line and sing to the Tsar, the bells resonating amidst a delightful harmony considered barbaric by Western critics and the like on first exposure:


That sly Debussy: something so imposing is made light of:


Now that you’re familiar with these three liftings, return to the first example  – Scene 1’s ending – and observe Debussy stringing together three disparate moments from Boris that became part of his language.

I dedicate this post to a bygone Schenker pupil who informed me that great composers must be studied exclusively through their own works, not to ever make references to others!

© Allan Evans 2019

all selections performed by the ORTF conducted by Inghelbrecht,

For further Debussy sounds (including his own playing) avail yourselves of our recent project:

Debussy’s Traces