The cornerstone project for the cooperation of the three musicians, all of whom were already contemporary music specialists, was Stefan Wolpe’s Trio in Two Parts (1963/64) for flute, cello and piano. The flutist, Lesley Olson, the cellist, Scott Roller and the pianist, Susanne Achilles, rehearsed the rarely-performed trio for six months before they presented their interpretation to an audience. The work, personality and milieu of Stefan Wolpe set the fundamental tone and standards for the ensemble. The fact that the ensemble is, in fact, a German-American formation - Scott Roller and Lesley Olson are from the USA (where they did most of their studies); Susanne Achilles is from the Ruhr Region of Germany - was a further factor in the choice of a name: Wolpe Trio.
Stefan Wolpe was one of the first people after the end of the Second World War who made an effort to encourage exchange between the American and the German avant-garde. Contact to his former homeland was important to Wolpe, who had fled Germany from the Nazis in 1934, first to Palestine and then on the USA, where he settled in 1938. In the USA he became, having weathered through initial difficulties, a sought-after teacher who eventually taught analysis and composition at various institutions. Wolpe introduced many American composers and music historians to the European avant-garde of the 20s. Stefan Wolpe is an important link between contemporary European-German and North American musical life. Works of European and American composers have made up Wolpe Trio programs since their successful debut performance at the documenta IX art festival in Kassel (Germany) in 1992. Composers of widely-diverse origins have written works especially for the Wolpe Trio, including: Ludger Brümmer (Essen), Johannes Fritsch (Cologne), Dietrich Hahne (Essen), Wolfgang Hufschmidt (Essen), Max Keller (Zürich), Edward Levy (New York), Erik Lund (Champaign-Urbana), Roland Pfrengle (Berlin), Michael Reudenbach (Aachen), Kaija Saariaho (Helsinki/Paris) and Stuart Saunders Smith (Baltimore).
Stefan Wolpe’s statement in his Thinking Twice (1959) reads like a recipe for a Wolpe Trio program: ”Mix surprise with wonder, magic with shock, intelligence with devotion, form with anti-form.” Inspired by this spirit, the Wolpe Trio has chosen five compositions for their debut CD which, with the exception of one or two earlier recordings of Wolpe’s Trio, are all world premiere recordings.