Robert Barto graduated from the University of California, San Diego with a specialization in historical lute performance. A Fulbright scholarship took him to Europe, where he continued his studies with Michael Schaeffer in Cologne and then with Eugen Müller-Dombois in Basel, Switzerland. He was awarded first prize in the International Lute Competition in Toronto in 1984, as well as top prize of all instrumental soloists in the Musica Antiqua Competition in Bruges, Belgium, that same year.
Robert Barto has performed throughout Europe and North America, and his honors have included an invitation to present a concert in tribute to Sylvius Leopold Weiss in Dresden, the city where Weiss spent most of his professional career. His continuing series of recordings with the music of Weiss for Naxos, as well as his two CDs of the complete solo works of Bernhard Hagen, have been met with great enthusiasm from critics worldwide. Together with Karl-Ernst Schröder he has recorded Mr. Schröders reconstruction of the lute duets of S. L. Weiss. This recording was proclaimed by the English magazine Early Music as lute CD of the decade.