Posted by on Jul 23, 2017 in Discography | Comments Off on HYPERION RECORDS – CDA68205

2017_nenov_cd_hyperionDimitar Nenov (1901 – 1953)

Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (1936)

Ballade for Piano Concertante and Orchestra (1943)

Ivo Varbanov, piano

Royal Scottish National Orchestra

Emil Tabakov, conductor

A refusal to toe the party line in communist Bulgaria led to polymath Dimitar Nenov being marginalized in life, and to posthumous neglect. But this is hugely enjoyable music, well worthy of revival in such fiercely committed performances as we find here.


‘it’s a strangely compelling journey. Once you get on, it’s hard to get off’ (Gramophone)

‘Colourful and spicy rather than avant-garde … [an] excellent new recording’ (BBC Music Magazine)



‘The monumental concerto is a highly-strung, emotional, single-movement journey, combining a late Romantic sensibility with a uniquely daring modernism, while the Ballade moves from pastoral idyll to climactic frenzy, with boisterous Bulgarian dance influences along the way’ (The Observer) ∗∗∗∗

‘Releases such as this demonstrate the continuing validity of the gramophone as an artistic medium: otherwise we could wait for ever before hearing this eminently worthwhile music’ (Classical Source) ∗∗∗∗∗

Brahms on the piano, volume 3

Posted by on Jul 23, 2017 in Discography | Comments Off on Brahms on the piano, volume 3

2016_cover_icsm008-copyJ. Brahms, Sonata No. 1 Op. 38 for piano and cello, Sonata No. 2 Op. 99 for piano and cello




Jozef Lupták, cello, & Ivo Varbanov, piano


Johannes Brahms often consolidated his mastery of freshly explored domains by writing two examples in a specific genre in quick succession. His output consequently features such complementary couplings as the Piano Quartets Nos. 1 and 2, Opp. 25 and 26; the String Quartets, Opp. 51, Nos. 1 and 2; the Clarinet Trio, Op. 114, and Clarinet Quintet, Op. 115; Six Piano Pieces, Op. 118, and Four Piano Pieces, Op. 119; and, in orchestral music, the Academic Festival Overture, Op. 80, and Tragic Overture, Op. 81.

A notable exception to this trend is provided by the two sonatas for cello, which are separated by some 21 years and reflect the composer’s changing circumstances: the first is the product of a young man serving notice of his scholarship and maturity, whereas the second is the work of an older man writing at the peak of his powers with remarkable vigour and intensity.

Jozef and Ivo long standing friendship, shows in their natural partnership. It is the best possible synergy for this repertoire which requires both a technical command of the instruments and an intelligent Central European chamber music making.


Posted by on Jul 23, 2017 in Discography | Comments Off on LÉGENDES ANCIENNES

2016_cover_icsm006-copyI. Stravinsky, Pétrouchka, Le Sacre du printemps (original piano four hands versions by the composer)




Fiammetta Tarli & Ivo Varbanov, piano four hands


The piano was fundamental to the modus operandi of Igor Stravinsky as a composer, not least when he was writing orchestral scores.  Touching the keys gave him immediate contact with sound which he considered to be a vital part of the creative process.  This tactile element provided him with an opportunity to feel sonorities and harmonies in addition to hearing them and the subtleties of the instrument offered the possibility of fresh revelations at every repositioning of his fingers.  As Stravinsky’s works for orchestra began life at the keyboard in this deft, exploratory way, it is not by chance that several of them translate back into piano music with conspicuous success.

The celebrated Russian ballet scores commissioned by the impresario Sergei Diaghilev from the young Stravinsky are outstanding orchestral works in their own right.  They constitute one of the highpoints in the great era of artistic innovation immediately preceding the First World War.

With the exception of The Rite of Spring, these ballet scores contain a significant part for the piano.  In the case of Petrushka, not only does the instrument bring lustre and coruscation to the orchestral palette, it is also entrusted with an important concertante role.  Although the Rite does not feature a piano in its considerable orchestral forces, the score’s often percussive effects work remarkably well on the keyboard from the stamping chords which initiate the ‘Dances of the Young Girls’ to the almost tangible, steely textures of the concluding ‘Dance of the Earth’.

Brahms on the piano – volume 2

Posted by on Jul 23, 2017 in Discography | Comments Off on Brahms on the piano – volume 2

2015_cover_icsm004-copyJ. Brahms, Sonata, Op. 1

Scherzo, Op. 4

Ballades, Op. 10




Ivo Varbanov, piano


The second release of Ivo Varbanov on ICSM Records (ICSM Records 004) presents early piano works by Johannes Brahms: his Piano Sonata no. 1 in C major, Op. 1, the Scherzo, Op. 4, and the four Ballades, Op. 10.

All three piano works were performed at crucial moments in Brahms’s life:  the  Piano Sonata was the focus of one of the most romantic ‘first encounters’ in musical history. The handsome 20-year-old-unknown from Hamburg presented himself at Robert Schumann’s house in Düsseldorf on 1 October 1853. Schumann invited him to play something, and he sat down to begin the C major Sonata. ‘Visit from Brahms, a genius’, wrote Schumann in his diary for that day. The Scherzo Op. 4 was one of the first works Brahms showed to Franz Liszt and to Schumann in 1853. Liszt found the piece so congenial that he played it to an assembled company at Weimar. Lastly, the Ballades emerged at a fateful juncture in the 21-year-old Brahms’s life, shortly after his revered friend and patron Schumann had attempted suicide and been confined in a sanatorium near Bonn. Brahms had thus suddenly been thrust into the role of protector and comforter of Schumann’s wife Clara and her children, and was simultaneously wrestling with the fact that he had fallen in love with her. The Ballades, his first group of short lyric pieces, are prophetic of the compressed masterpieces of his later years.

Varbanov’s visionary choice of pieces is matched by his powerful rendition. This recording will impress the listener for its supreme sound beauty and the interpreter’s unusual choices.


Varbanov’s powerful, muscular reading of [Brahms’s] op. 1 Sonata leaves no doubt of his authority. I was particularly impressed by the sweep of the first movement and the touching simplicity Varbanov brings to the folksong-based slow movement.

— Huntley Dent, Fanfare (USA)


Posted by on Jul 23, 2017 in Discography | Comments Off on LEGACY

2014_cover_icsm002-copyL. v. Beethoven, Bagatelles Op. 126

R. Schumann, Gesänge der Frühe, Op. 133

J. Brahms, 6 Chorale Preludes Op. 122 (transcription F. Busoni)



Ivo Varbanov, piano


The first release of Ivo Varbanov on ICSM Records (ICSM 002) features the last piano works by Ludwig van Beethoven (Bagatelles Op. 126), Robert Schumann (Gesänge der Frühe Op. 133), and the piano transcription of Ferruccio Busoni of 6 of the 11 Choral Preludes for organ Op. 122 by Johannes Brahms.

Beethoven’s Bagatelles, written three years before his death, were considered by the composer the best things of their kind that he had done, a true cycle of miniatures. Schumann’s Morning Songs, with their visionary intimacy inspired by the great German poet Friedrich Hölderlin, were written just a few months before Schumann’s tragic attempt to drown himself in the Rhine, due to his mental illness; his content is in stark contrast to his early piano works. As for Brahms’s Chorale Preludes, written  after the death of his beloved Clara Schumann, they are works of lonely self-communing and consolation, the ultimate fruit of Brahms’s lifetime immersion in early music. In these rarely performed transcriptions, Busoni has re-imagined them in the style of Brahms’s own late piano pieces.

More than a search for ultimate messages, this recording is a philosophical journey in the late lives of Beethoven, Schumann and Brahms, performed by Varbanov in a minimalist but poignant way.

His playing has a quality of utmost subtlety, reverence, and seriousness of purpose — Scott Noriega, Fanfare (USA)


…it radiates the right sort of authority. ∗∗∗∗ —  Michael Church, BBC Music Magazine (UK)

Brahms on the piano — volume 1

Posted by on Jul 23, 2017 in Discography | Comments Off on Brahms on the piano — volume 1

2014_cover_icsm001-copyBrahms, Walzer Op. 39

Liebeslieder Walzer Op. 52a

Neue Liebeslieder Walzer Op. 65a



Fiammetta Tarli & Ivo Varbanov, piano four hands


The first release of ICSM Records (ICSM 001) features the complete recording of Brahms four-hand Waltzes. Dance music was in Johannes Brahms’s blood. Two particular dance-measures fascinated him throughout his life, the waltz and the Hungarian Czárdás.

Here we explore what he could do with waltz-rhythms, even on the smallest scale, in the medium of the piano duet. Brahms’s two sets of Liebeslieder-Walzer (Love-song Waltzes) used to be among his best-known works. These beguiling little waltz-songs  remind us of a time before radio or television, when domestic music-making was a fact of life, a time when ‘quartet parties’ were frequent and when families would gather around the piano to play and sing for their evening entertainment.

Performed by Tarli and Varbanov, the two interpreters enrapt the listener with an imaginary fantasy on the waltz form whose underlying theme is love. Here you have an hour of sheer delight. ∗∗∗∗∗

—  Klassisk Musikkmagasin (Norway)

A dizzying experience. ∗∗∗∗

— Stephen Pritchard, The Observer (UK)

An absolute delight to hear.

— Jerry Dubins, Fanfare (USA)

Johannes Brahms

Posted by on Jul 23, 2017 in Discography | Comments Off on Johannes Brahms

2007_brahms_cover_cd_gega-copyFour Pieces for piano, op. 119, Two Rhapsodies for piano, op. 79, Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Händel for piano, op. 24




Ivo Varbanov, piano


Pianist Ivo Varbanov has recorded again an interesting programme for Gega New with works by Brahms. In his previous releases for the label, he presented Mussorgsky (GD 117), Ildebrando Pizzetti, together with the cellist Seeli Toivio (GD 275), and 20th century music, which he recorded with the Voland Quartet (GD 310).

20th-21st Century Works for Two Pianos and Percussions

Posted by on Jul 23, 2017 in Discography | Comments Off on 20th-21st Century Works for Two Pianos and Percussions

2006_voland_cd_gega-copyGEGA NEW – GD310


Béla Bartók – Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion (1937)

Ari Ben-Shabetai – Hora (1997)

Gheroghi Arnaoudov – Variations on a Theme by S. Rachmaninov (2001)

Alexander Arutunian – Festive (1962)

Christo Yotsov – Musical Moments (2004)

Jerzy Bauer – Divertimento (1965)

Voland Quartet:

Ivo Varbanov (piano), Michal Drewnowski (piano)

Christo Yotzov (percussion), Radosvet (Eti) Kukudov (percussion)


Voland Quartet presents a very interesting program. The works included were created during the last 70 years and they show some trends in the development of 20th and 21st century music. Of special interest is the combination of two pianos with the timbre variety of the different percussion instruments. The four musicians are renowned solo performers, but in the present recordings they have achieved an amazing ensemble performance.

Ildebrando Pizzetti

Posted by on Jul 23, 2017 in Discography | Comments Off on Ildebrando Pizzetti

2004_pizzetti_cd_gega-copySonata in Fa for cello and piano (1921), Tre canti for cello and piano (1924)




Seeli Toivio, cello

Ivo Varbanov, piano


The famous Italian composer, conductor, critic and pedagogue Ildebrando Pizzetti (1880-1968) is almost unknown in Bulgaria. He worked as a conductor in Parma, Florence and was Director of the Milan Conservatoire and teacher in composition at the St. Cecilia Academy in Rome. He was also a music critic for leading newspapers and wrote essays for various specialised books and magazines. Parallel to that he wrote a number of works in different genres – operas, ballets, oratorios, symphonies, a wide range of chamber music, choral music and film music.

The compositions included in the present programme of Seeli Toivio and Ivo Varbanov were written during the 1920s. This release is the world premiere of both these works.

Modest Mussorgsky, Pictures at and Exhibition and piano works Ivo Varbanov

Posted by on Jul 23, 2017 in Discography | Comments Off on Modest Mussorgsky, Pictures at and Exhibition and piano works Ivo Varbanov

1998_mussorgsky_cover_gega-copyModest Mussorgsky, Pictures at and Exhibition and piano works Ivo Varbanov




For his Bulgarian CD the pianist has chosen Mussorgsky’s masterpiece Pictures at an Exhibition. This work not only poses to the performer various difficulties with respect to technique and interpretation, but it requires a truthful rendition of the great Russian composer’s unique style, a thorough understanding of the work’s rich and vivid imagery, together with an ability to construct a monumental cycle serving as points of support to the overall structure.

The listener will feel the scope of Varbanov’s performance who is beyond doubt a talented pianist with brilliant technique who has probed deeply in Mussorgsky’s style. Each of the pictures carries a monumental character and ideas of its own, rendered with a great variety of timbres, nuances, dynamics and strokes, while the famous theme of “Promenade” turns the finale of the work into a sound emanation of the Russian spirit, of the great “Knight’s Gate” (in Kiev, the ancient Russian capital).


Posted by on Jul 22, 2017 in Discography | Comments Off on Discography