Specialist Advice in Education and Culture

Like a Chemist from Canada

A new play by Lewis Owens

In 1958, at the height of his artistic ability and reputation, the composer Dmitri Shostakovich was invited by Oxford University to receive an Honorary Doctorate of Music, along with fellow musician Francis Poulenc and other dignitaries. From the initial invitation by Oxford to Shostakovich in Moscow, the story is a fascinating, humorous and poignant portrayal of the clash of two distinct, and distinctly insular, worlds: the Byzantine rituals and orotundity of Oxford University and the unsmiling officialdom of Soviet Russia. When Shostakovich finally arrives in Oxford for his three-day stay, hosted by Sir Isaiah and Lady Berlin, we are presented not only with a unique insight into the inner personalities of Shostakovich, Poulenc, Berlin, Trevor-Roper and others, but also a searing reminder of the value of art in the Cold War period.


The play is based on the official correspondence and telegrams surrounding the visit, first published by Dr Lewis Owens in 2004, including Berlin’s astonishing ruminations on the significance of Shostakovich’s visit.

This story has never been staged before and includes the music of Shostakovich and Poulenc (including performance by internationally acclaimed pianist Colin Stone).





Saturday June 13, 7pm


Lilian Baylis Studio, Sadler's Wells - Rosebery Ave, London EC1R 4TN


Like a Chemist from Canada






Dmitri Shostakovich: 24 Preludes Op. 34, Nos. 2,6,10,15,16,17,20.                      

Dmitri Shostakovich: Three Fantastic Dances Op.5.    

Franz Liszt: Hungarian Rhapsody No.6 S. 244

Dimitris Daskalakis - Piano


Tickets: £15/£10 (concessions)

Available from here



Sunday June 14, 7pm


The Dukes Hall, Royal Academy of Music - Marylebone Road, London, NW1 5HT


Like a Chemist from Canada





Dmitri Shostakovich, Sonata for Piano and Cello in D Minor, op. 40

Francis Poulenc, Sonata for Piano and Cello, op. 143

Colin Stone - Piano

Leonid Gorokhov – Cello



Tickets: £20/£15 (concessions).

Available from here




Friday July 3, 7.30pm


The Sheldonian Theatre - Broad Street, Oxford OX1 3AZ


Like a Chemist from Canada





Dmitri Shostakovich, Prelude and Fugue No. 4 in E minor

Dmitri Shostakovich, Prelude and Fugue No. 15 in D flat major

Dmitri Shostakovich, Piano Quintet in G Minor, op. 57

Colin Stone - Piano

The Sacconi Quartet


Tickets: "Early Bird" discount until 15th June - from £15 to £20 (£13 to £18 concessions)

Available from here:  


"It is easier to save a manuscript than to save a man"

Nadezhda Mandelstam



“The life of Isaiah Berlin contained several episodes that cry out for theatrical treatment, and Lewis Owens here dramatises one of them, co-starring Shostakovich, with intelligence and flair.” Dr Henry Hardy, Isaiah Berlin’s editor, Wolfson College, Oxford



“A very imaginative and unusual play.” Peter Bien, Emeritus Professor of English and Comparative Literature, Dartmouth College, USA


“The play portrays, in sharp focus and with an immense attention to detail, not only the visit of Shostakovich to Oxford but, and as significantly, the various machinations that lay behind the apparent success of the visit. There are surprises too, both musically and politically speaking.” Alan Mercer, DSCH Journal editor



"Shostakovich honoured: a thought-provoking snapshot, drawn from authentic documents and music, of ceremonial Oxford meeting totalitarian Russia." Peter Oppenheimer, Christ Church College, Oxford.