The son of Portuguese parents, Ivo Cruz was born in Brazil and started his musical studies in Lisbon with Tomás de Lima and Tomás Borba. After having graduated in Law, he left for Germany in 1925, where he took classes in Composition, Orchestra Conduction, Aesthetics and Music History.
He showed an early interest for pre-classical Portuguese music both in the pieces he composed as well as in the creation of the Duarte Lobo Choral Society in 1931. He was greatly responsible for spreading this repertoire among the wider public. Six years later he formed Lisbon's Philarmonic Orchestra, with which he took Portugal's musical repertoire all over the world.
In 1938 he replaced Vianna da Motta as the head of the National Conservatory, having held the position up until 1971. He collaborated throughout his life in various publications and published an autobiography in 1985.