He is a composer, broadcaster and professor born Michael Fitzhardinge Berkeley in England to a musical family where his father was the composer Sir Lennox Berkeley and his godfather was the composer Benjamin Britten. He started singing when he was young and sang works written by his godfather as well as being a chorister at Westminster Cathedral.
He attended the Royal Academy of Music where he studied piano, singing and composition and later, when he decided to follow the composition side of things, he took further studies with Richard Rodney Bennett.
He wrote an oboe concerto in 1977 and was recognised that same year when he won the Guinness Prize for Composition. In 1979 he became the Scottish Chamber Orchestra’s Associate Composer and during the 1980s he wrote his Gregorian Variations and the oratorio Or Shall We Die? that was written in collaboration with Ian McEwan. 1990 saw the appearance of his Gethsemani Fragment and three years later his opera based on the childhood of Rudyard Kipling, Baa, Baa Black Sheep, was written in collaboration with the librettist David Malouf.
From 1995 he was the Artistic Director of the Cheltenham International Festival and would continue in that position for the next nine years until 2004. His Clarinet Concerto was premiered in 1990 and the compositions Secret Garden and The Garden of Earthly Delightscame out in 1997 and 1998 respectively. 2000 saw his opera Jane Eyre, once again written with the libretto by David Malouf, premiered at the Cheltenham Festival.
In recent years he has held the position of Composer-in-Association for the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and his commissioned Concerto for Orchestra was premiered at the Proms in 2005. His chamber opera, For You, which was written with the librettist Ian McEwan was premiered by Music Theatre Wales in October 2008.
He has also taught students at the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama where he is a Visiting Professor in Composition.
As a music broadcaster for television and radio he currently hosts Private Passions on BBC Radio 3. He and his family currently reside in both Wales and London and outside of working in a broadcasting studio or writing his own works he holds the position of Chairman of the Governors of the Royal Ballet.
In 2012 he was appointed a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) and the following year the House of Lords announced he was to become a life peer and was given the title Baron Berkeley of Knighton in the Country of Powys.