Marriner was born in Lincoln, England, and studied at the Royal College of Music and the Paris Conservatoire. He played the violin in the Philharmonia Orchestra, the Martin String Quartet and London Symphony Orchestra, playing with the latter two for 13 years. He later formed the Jacobean Ensemble with Thurston Dart before going to Hancock, Maine in the United States to study conducting with Pierre Monteux at his school there. In 1958, he founded the Academy of St Martin in the Fields chamber orchestra and recorded profusely with them.Marriner was the first music director of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, from 1969 to 1978. From 1979 to 1986, he was music director of the Minnesota Orchestra. He was principal conductor of the Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra from 1986 to 1989.Marriner has recorded for various labels, including Argo, L'Oiseau Lyre, Philips and EMI Classics. His recorded repertoire ranges from the baroque era to 20th century British music, as well as opera. Among his recordings are two CDs of British music for Philips Classics with Julian Lloyd Webber, including acclaimed performances of Benjamin Britten's Cello Symphony and Sir William Walton's Cello Concerto. Marriner also supervised the Mozart selections for the soundtrack of the 1984 film Amadeus
.Marriner was created a Knight Bachelor in 1985. (He was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1979.) He was chairman of the Academy of St Martin in the Fields chamber orchestra until 1992, when he was succeeded by Malcolm Latchem. Marriner holds the title of Life President. He is the father of the clarinettist Andrew Marriner, Principal Clarinet of the London Symphony Orchestra.