Ivo Varbanov studied in Milan with the Hungarian pianist Ylonka Deckers from 1988 to 1993. After his graduation he came to England to work with Sulamita Aronowsky and Frank Wibaut at the Royal Academy of Music, completing his postgraduate studies in 1998 (on a Rotary Foundation Scholarship).
He studied also with Dennis Lee. Ivo Varbanov and Seeli Toivio won 1st Prize and Special Prize in the XXV International Chamber Music Competition in Finale Ligure (Italy) in 1998. His first CD of piano works by Mussorgsky (Gega New) had excellent reviews in BBC Music Magazine, Suono, HFN&RR, In Tune, and Kultura. His second CD with Seeli Toivio (Gega New) was a world première of works for cello & piano by Ildebrando Pizzetti was released in 2004.
In 2001 with Michal Drewnowski (piano), Christo Yotzov and Eti Kukudov (percussion), he created the Voland Quartet, a two pianos and percussion ensemble dedicated to contemporary music. Their first CD, with works by Béla Bartók, Aleksandr Arutiunian, Gheorghi Arnaoudov, Ari Ben-Shabetai, Christo Yotzov and Jerzy Bauer was released in December 2006 (Gega New). His performances and interviews have been broadcast on Bulgarian National Radio, BBC Radio, RAI3, Classic FM+, Bulgarian National TV, BTV, and TV Bulgaria. His performances include concertos, recitals and chamber music in Bulgaria, Italy, the UK, France, Spain, Ireland, Germany, Holland, Poland, Russia, and the USA. Career highlights include the South Bank Centre and Wigmore Hall (London), Carnegie Recital Hall (New York), Bulgaria Hall (Sofia), Philharmonic Hall (St Petersburg).
His engagements in the last few seasons include appearances at the Wigmore Hall (4 concerts), St. John’s Smith Square, St. George’s Brandon Hill in Bristol, Haden Freeman Hall in Manchester, and concerts in Bulgaria, Italy, the UK, Poland, Spain, and France. His fourth CD with piano works by Johannes Brahms was released in May 2007 by Gega New.
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.
He is the Artistic Director of Bulgarian Creative Arts and he has been promoting and supporting Bulgarian Art and Culture in the UK since 2003. He has organised five editions of the Bulgarian Film Festival In London, a large number of concerts, exhibitions, theatre performances, and culinary events.