Described by the composer Rodion Shchedrin as "one of the most brilliant violists in the world", Russian-born Misha Berkut started his career as a violinist, having quickly gained an outstanding reputation as a soloist and ensemble player. Whilst performing a wide variety of repertoire ranging from classical works to contemporary music and rock, he realised, aged 26 that the sound and style of the viola lay much closer to his heart. After only a month of study he made his debut as a violist in the Concert Hall of the Moscow Conservatoire.
Having trained as a violinist at the Moscow Conservatoire at the hands of such distinguished teachers as Maya Glezarova and Nadezhda Beshkina and gained experience in ensemble-playing under the direction of musicians such as Alexander Bakhchiev, Valentin Berlinsky, Mikhail Kopelman and others, Misha soon mastered the viola, and within six months enrolled at the Conservatoire as a postgraduate viola student in the class of Yuri Bashmet. During these years he was active as both violist and violinist, often playing both instruments in the same concert.
Already a winner of International Vincenzo Bellini Chamber Ensembles Competition in Italy in 1990, he then began to prepare for solo competitions as a violist. In 1997, after eighteen months of study, he became a laureate of the prestigious Lionel Tertis International Viola Competition on the Isle of Man, the first Russian prize-winner at that competition since its establishment in 1980. He went on to win the Yuri Bashmet Moscow International Viola Competition.
Since then he has performed in all of the world's major venues, and with some of its most outstanding musicians, among them Ivri Gitlis, Yuri Bashmet, Kolja Blacher, Natalia Gutman, Gidon Kremer, Alexei Lubimov, Aleksander Rudin and Naum Shtarkman. The festivals at which he has appeared include December Nights of Sviatoslav Richter, Territory, Moscow Autumn in Russia, Berliner Festwochen, the Oleg Kagan Musikfest in Germany, the Bath International Music Festival in England and Gaudeamus in the Netherlands.
Misha Berkut has given the Russian premieres of works by composers such as York Bowen, Mikhail Bronner, Morton Feldman, Michael Nyman, Nino Rota, Efrem Podgaits, Valentin Silvestrov, Vladimir Dashkevich, and some of the leading Russian composers of the day have dedicated viola works to him.
An "Honoured Artist of Russia" from 2002 and Associate Professor at the Moscow State Conservatoire from 2005 to 2016, Misha Berkut has made numerous television and radio performances and CD recordings. He was a member of the jury of various international music competitions and has given master classes all around the world.