Having first started playing the baroque violin while studying Classics at Cambridge University, he went on to study with Simon Standage, one of the founding members of The English Concert, at the Royal Academy of Music, followed by further studies with Lucy van Dael at The Hague and Marie Leonhardt.
In 1988 he became first violin of the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra under the direction of Ton Koopman. He was also a member of the ensemble Romanesca with John Toll (harpsichord) and Nigel North (lute).
From 2003 he was director of the baroque orchestra The English Concert, having succeeded harpsichordist Trevor Pinnock. He relinquished this position in September 2007 to Harry Bicket. In 2006, Manze became the chief conductor of the Helsingborg Symphony Orchestra.
Manze is a regular contributor to BBC Radio 3, and one of the presenters of its The Early Music Show. He has made many recordings for Harmonia Mundi records. He also plays solo and chamber music. He is a frequent collaborator in chamber music partner with harpsichordist Richard Egarr.