Elgar Howarth studied music at Manchester University and the Royal Manchester College of Music, where his first study was composition. His conducting career began in the early 1970s and since then he has appeared regularly with all the leading British orchestras both in the concert hall and in the recording studio.
His operatic achievements cover a wide repertoire and include the world premiere of Ligeti's Le Grand Macabre at the Stockholm Royal Opera, followed by productions of the same work in Hamburg, Paris and London. In 1985 he made his debut at Covent Garden with King Priam which he later performed with the same company at the Athens Festival. For Glyndebourne he has conducted The Barber of Seville, Falstaff, Nigel Osborne's The Electrification of the Soviet Union and Birtwistle's The Second Mrs Kong and The Last Supper. He conducted the world premiere of Birtwistle's Gawain at Covent Garden in May 1991 and the revivals in 1994 and 2000.
In addition to conducting English Northern Philharmonia from 1985-1989 he appears frequently with the sister company, Opera North (where he was music advisor from 1996-99).
He retains an interest in composing especially, as a former trumpet player, for brass instruments. His works are much recorded.