Brian Elias was born in Bombay, India, and has lived in the UK since he was thirteen years old. After studying at the Royal College of Music he undertook private studies with Elisabeth Lutyens. His first major orchestral work L'Eylah was premiered at the BBC Proms in 1984. He has since had his works performed and recorded extensively by leading orchestras and soloists including the BBC Symphony Orchestra, the Britten Sinfonia, Psappha Ensemble, Jane Manning, Roderick Williams, Nicholas Daniels, Natalie Clein, Leonard Elschenbroich, and the Jerusalem Quartet. His monumental Five Songs to Poems by Irina Ratushinskya was premiered in 1989 and secured his reputation as one of Britain's pre-eminent composers.
Elias collaborated with Kenneth MacMillan on his final ballet The Judas Tree, premiered in 1992 at the Royal Opera House. The Judas Tree has subsequently been revived on numerous occasions by The Royal Ballet and toured internationally. In 2017 his Cello Concerto was premiered at the BBC Proms by Leonard Elschenbroich and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Elias has won two British Composer Awards - the first for his 2010 work Doubles, and the second for his 2013 work Electra Mourns. Many of his orchestral works, chamber music and songs have been recorded on the NMC label.