The four composers on display in Mr Varbanov’s solo recital could not be more different for nationality (British, American, Bulgarian, Russian), historic moment, and temperament, but they have one aspect in common: their music evokes images as much as ‘pictures at an exhibition’ do. And their images could not be more powerful.
G. Benjamin, Piano Figures
S. Barber – Excursions op. 20
P. Vladigerov, Rhapsody Vardar op. 16
Modest Mussorgsky, Pictures at an Exhibition
Ivo Varbanov is a leading figure of Bulgarian music and culture abroad. After a forced stop from performing from 2009 to 2012 due to Leukaemia he has returned to the stage with impressive performances at Royal Festival Hall with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, King’s Place in the Brahms Unwrapped season, and at Cadogan Hall.
He is a recipient of the Ivan Vazov Award for the popularisation of Bulgarian Culture abroad, and in 2011 he was also awarded the Silver Lion Award from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. His performances have been broadcast on Bulgarian National Radio, BBC Radio, RAI 3, France Music, Radio Toscana Classica, Classic FM+, Spanish National Radio, Slovak National Radio, Bulgarian National TV, BTV, and TV Bulgaria.
In 2017 Hyperion Records released a recording of the Dimitar Nenov Piano Concerto and Ballade for Piano and Orchestra No 2 with the Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Maestro Emil Tabakov, received enthusiastically by the critics worldwide (with an average of 4.5/5 stars).
Until 2019 he has 13 commercial recordings for Hyperion Records, Gega New, B.N.R., Lorelt Records, and ICSM Records.
His performances include concertos, recitals and chamber music in more than 20 countries in three continents. Career highlights include multiple performances at the Royal Festival Hall, Wigmore Hall, King’s Place, Cadogan Hall, St. John’s Smith Square in London, Carnegie Recital Hall in New York, Bulgaria Concert Hall in Sofia, Philharmonic Hall in St. Petersburg, Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow, Freeman Concert Hall in Manchester, St George’s Bristol, and West Road in Cambridge.
He is partnering with some of the finest orchestras such as the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, English Chamber Orchestra, Turku Philharmonic, Sofia Philharmonic Orchestra, Bulgarian National Symphony Orchestra, Sofia Soloists, Tianjin Symphony Orchestra, and the Gdansk Philharmonic Orchestra under the baton of distinguished conductors such as Leif Segerstam, Emil Tabakov, Muhai Tang, Stanislav Oushev, Alexander Kantorov, and Massimiliano Caldi.
In the past seasons he has been collaborating in chamber music concerts with his wife Fiammetta Tarli and Konstantin Lifschitz (two pianos/four hands), as well as with the violinist Ofer Falk, cellists László Fenyö, Seeli Toivio, Jozef Lupták and Hillel Zori, the Allegri Quartet, and the horn player Tanja Nisonen, performing in festivals such as Sofia Music Weeks, Cervo Summer Festival, Ohrid Summer Festival, Chopin Marienbad Festival, Apollonia Arts Festival, and CarniaArmonie Festival, and Lodz Contemporary Music Festival.
He started to play the piano at the age of 6 in his home town with Eleonora Karamisheva. He studied with Riccardo Bertazzolo and with the renown Hungarian teacher Ylonka Deckers in Italy. After his graduation at the age of 20, he came to England to work with Sulamita Aronowsky at the RNCM in Manchester and with Frank Wibaut at the Royal Academy of Music, completing his postgraduate studies in 1998 (on a Rotary Foundation Scholarship). He also studied privately with Dennis Lee and was inspired in masterclasses by great artists and teachers such as Alexander Lonquich, Barry Douglas, and Lev Naumov. He has been leading masterclasses himself at the Bulgarian National Music School in Sofia, at the Hochschule für Musik Luzern in Switzerland, and at the Radom National Music School in Poland.