Born in Hamburg (Germany) in 1935, Brandis trained as a violinist in Hamburg and later in London with Max Rostal. After winning the first of the International ARD Competition he was concertmaster in Hamburg, moving later to Berlin to play with the Berlin Philharmonic. He became concertmaster of the Berlin Philharmonic at age 26, and served in the position until 1983. In 1976 he founded the Brandis-Quartet, which has performed virtually in all major festivals in Europe, Japan and the Americas. Thomas Brandis has recorded for EMI, Deutsche Grammophon, Teldec, Orfeo and Harmonia Mundi.
He died on 30 March 2017 at the age of 81.