Icicle Creek Piano Trio

now Volta Piano Trio


Jennifer Caine, violin
Sally Singer, cello
Oksana Ezhokina, piano




Icicle Creek Piano Trio






"Icicle Creek Piano Trio uses elegance of tone and grace of line and texture..."
"transforming sweep of gossamer beauty." --Gramophone, May 2011

"…this is simply one fantastic performance" –Fanfare (full review)

Franz Josef Haydn: Piano Trio in E Major, Hob. XV: 28
1. Allegro moderato
2. Allegretto
3. Finale: Allegro
Joaquin Turina: Círculo — Fantasy for Piano, Violin, and Cello, Op. 91
4. Amanecer
5. Mediodía
6. Crepúsculo
Dmitri Shostakovich: Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor, Op. 67
7. Andante - Moderato
8. Allegro non troppo
9. Largo
10. Allegretto

Program notes:

Although Franz Josef Haydn's major contributions to the music of the Classical period are often noted, the wealth of his output inevitably prompts rediscovery of forgotten gems. This is especially true in the piano trio repertoire, where over forty trios by Haydn exist but only a handful are popularly acknowledged. The E-major trio selected for this recording is from a later group of three trios (1794-95) dedicated to the London pianist Thérèse Jansen. As is so typical of Haydn's music, the wit, charm, and transparent sincerity of the composer's personality pervade this work. From the quirky opening, in which the piano attempts to play pizzicato alongside the strings, to the metric play and light-hearted antics of the last movement, this piece reflects the popular image of "Papa Haydn" in all its best qualities. Between the livelier outer movements is an unexpected and fascinating musical oasis that speaks to the Baroque past and forms a thought provoking, even dramatic, statement within the piece's narrative.

Moving from Austria to Spain, Joaquin Turina's programmatic "fantasy trio" entitled Circulo aurally and metaphorically transports the listener to a different time and place. Composed in 1936, just before the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, this piece does not reflect the historical circumstances of the time as much as the cultural flavors and colors of Turina's native Spain. In three movements, whose titles translate to "Dawn," "Midday," and "Dusk," Turina provides the ideal setting for cyclical form in the musical depiction of an entire day. The piece captures the slow awakening and first sounds of the morning, the growing intensity of the sunrise, the revelry and energy of midday, and the gradual calming to a peaceful evening (with the opening musical material appropriately reflected at the end of the piece). The shifting moods, contrast of bright and hazy colors, and distinctive Spanish flair of this piece effectively carry the listener through a compact, but satisfyingly full day's journey.

In light of the first two pieces, the stark contrasts and interesting coincidental similarities found in the Shostakovich trio give perspective to all three works on the disc. While cyclic in form like Turina's trio, Shostakovich's epic Piano Trio in E minor is a journey on a much larger physical and emotional scale. Unlike Circulo, this is a piece whose perceived programmatic elements inevitably invoke strong ties to its tortured political and historical climate. In vivid contrast to Haydn, Shostakovich's personality and music are anything but transparent.

Composed in 1944 in the grim shadows of the Second World War, the Trio in E minor is dedicated to the composer's close friend, Ivan Sollertinsky, who died suddenly in February of that year. Central to the work are the Jewish themes and macabre dance that characterize the last movement. These references have been linked to Shostakovich's sympathy for the intense suffering of the Jewish people, whose persecution was coming to light at the time. Pain and anguish are deeply felt in this piece, and as is so often heard in Shostakovich's music, irony and sarcasm seem to lie just beneath the surface of humor and gaiety. From the haunting, ghostly cello harmonics that open the first movement, to the forced celebratory outbursts in the wild second movement, to the profound despair of the third movement (also based on the Baroque passacaglia form, like Haydn's slow movement, yet so vastly different), to the feverish return of the opening material and resignation at the end of the last movement, the emotional power of this piece is enormous and gripping. Programmatic or not, it speaks to the human heart at a universal level.

—program notes by Jennifer Caine

The Volta Piano Trio's debut recording of Ravel and Schubert E-flat trios was released in 2008, and was critically acclaimed by the American Record Guide, The Strad, Gramophone, Fanfare, and others. A second disc of trios by Haydn, Turina, and Shostakovich, released in 2010, has garnered rave reviews, including an endorsement by Fanfare as a "fantastic performance...a must for all chamber music lovers." The trio's recordings (both under the name Icicle Creek Piano Trio) and live performances have been featured on numerous radio stations across the country, including most recently NPR's Performance Today and Arizona's KBAQ as "CD of the Week."


"This is one album that is absolutely worth having."
--American Record Guide

"A five-star recommendation."

Ravel: Piano Trio in a minor
1. Modéré
2. Pantoum (Assez vif)
3. Passacaille (Très large)
4. Final (Animé)
Schubert: Piano Trio In E Flat, Op. 100
5. Allegro
6. Andante Con Moto
7. Scherzando : Allegro Moderato
8. Allegro Moderato

CD reviews:

"The performance by the Icicle Creek Trio comes as close to being "definitive" as any I expect to hear in my lifetime."

- Jerry Dubins, Fanfare

"Don't judge people by their names–this is a wonderful album! It even made me take delight in the Schubert, a work that usually drives me out of the room.

"After not even five seconds, I was aware of this group's exquisitely bright tuning and the gentle atmosphere they create for Ravel's impressionist masterpiece. After repeating the opening phrase at a leisurely pace, they give a delicate surge of energy to the first theme before slightly retreating into the ineffably lovely second theme, as the cello in tenor range plays counterpoint to the violin, and the pianist gently generates waves of arpeggios."

"...the Piu Lento coda is a touch of heaven."

- Gil French, American Record Guide

"The playing is warmly considered, meticulous in articulation and blend, and silken in sonority. [The players] gauge Schubert's brooding lines with affecting subtlety. They emphasise the music's contrasts of light and dark within a true chamber-music context, as if they're seated in the room feet away from your ears."

- Donald Rosenberg, Gramophone

"They catch all the subtle, shimmering shades of the Ravel Trio, but this is essentially a young, virile and robust view of the score."

"Their approach to the Schubert is literal and free of those mannerisms that have become encrusted on the work over the years."

- David Denton, The Strad

"The name "Icicle Creek" doesn't really do this piano trio justice. They perform with such fiery passion that there couldn't possibly be anything frozen within 100 yards of them....this stellar recording captures some truly stunning musicianship."

Chris Robley, CD Baby

Reviews full text

Program Notes:

Ravel's only piano trio and Schubert's second for this combination stand out individually for their greatness in the piano trio literature. For Ravel, the trio showcases his perfection of compositional technique in its complexity as well as beauty of texture and color. Schubert's epic Trio in E flat, penned at the end of his life, reveals the mature composer at his most powerful, both in emotional scope and virtuosic wizardry.

In 1914, Ravel composed his trio in the French Basque Country, and drew inspiration from that region for the colors and rhythms that permeate the Modéré first movement of the piece. Though it is roughly in traditional sonata form, the unconventional and distinctive style of the music comes through in the fluctuations of meter and tempo throughout the movement. Contrasting sections of exuberant frenzy and delicate stillness, balanced with sensitivity to the registers of the three instruments, give the music a broad scope and freedom. The second movement, Pantoum, takes its structure from a Malay verse form that has also been observed in the poetry of French writers such as Baudelaire and Hugo. The interplay of the sparkling, crisp theme introduced by the piano and the smoother, soaring one in the strings is intricate and complex, and full of energy and fireworks. In contrast, the following movement is grounded in the simple, clear form of a passacaglia (Passacaille in French). In returning to a more academic form, Ravel may have been paying direct homage to his former counterpoint instructor André Gedalge, to whom he dedicated the trio. In its grand and slow unfolding, it offers an otherworldly sense of time and space. The piece finishes with a last movement that is orchestral in dimension. Virtuosic in all the instrumental parts, it is a dazzling and heroic end to Ravel's sole foray into the piano trio repertoire.

The high place of importance occupied by Schubert's E flat trio is confirmed by the opinion of Robert Schumann, who considered it equal to Beethoven's monumental "Ghost" and "Archduke" trios. Schubert selected it to be featured on a program of his own works in 1828 in commemoration of the first anniversary of Beethoven's death. It is a piece that spans a range from the greatest strength and dramatic power to the most fragile and vulnerable of human emotions. With his subtle and seamless modulations and harmonic sleight of hand, Schubert easily brings dark clouds over previously innocent and cheerful musical material. The opening theme of the second movement, featuring the cello at its most soulful, is one of the most well known in the chamber music literature. Nearing the end of a long musical journey, this same theme returns hauntingly in the last movement – a movement so lengthy that Schubert later cut about two minutes of music from it before publishing the version heard on this disc. Capturing these characters, as well as contending with the physical enormity, demanding virtuosity, and transparency of texture, are challenges that make this trio one of the most elusively difficult works to perform.

-- Jennifer Caine

The Icicle Creek Piano Trio:

Hailed by Gramophone magazine for its "warmly considered playing" and "shadings of exquisite sheen and vibrancy," the Volta Piano Trio, formerly known as the Icicle Creek Piano Trio, has established itself as one of the Pacific Northwest's premier chamber ensembles. The members of the Volta Piano Trio originate from the United States, United Kingdom, and Russia. Together or as individuals, Jennifer Caine, Sally Singer, and Oksana Ezhokina have performed in venues such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Alice Tully Hall, the Phillips Collection, and the Royal Albert Hall, and have toured in Austria, Germany, France, Italy, and the U.K. Regionally and on the West Coast, they have performed at Pacific Lutheran University, the University of Puget Sound, Cornish College of the Arts, the Seattle Sherman Clay Recital Hall, the Governor's Mansion in Olympia, Benaroya Hall in Seattle, Seattle Town Hall, the University of Santa Barbara, and Davies Hall in San Francisco, among others. The Trio has appeared at chamber music festivals in Sag Harbor, NY, and Leavenworth and Walla Walla, WA. Recent highlights have included performances of Beethoven's Triple Concerto with the St. Petersburg Chamber Philharmonic in Russia and with the Washington Idaho Symphony.

The Trio was formerly Ensemble-in-Residence at the Icicle Creek Music Center in Leavenworth, Washington, where members directed performance and educational programs and maintained private studios. They are currently affiliated with the new Icicle Creek Center for the Arts as members of the Icicle Creek Chamber Players, with a concert series directed by Oksana Ezhokina.

The Volta Piano Trio's debut recording of Ravel and Schubert E-flat trios was released in 2008, and was critically acclaimed by the American Record Guide, The Strad, Gramophone, Fanfare, and others. A second disc of trios by Haydn, Turina, and Shostakovich, released in 2010, has garnered rave reviews, including an endorsement by Fanfare as a "fantastic performance...a must for all chamber music lovers." The trio's recordings (both under the name Icicle Creek Piano Trio) and live performances have been featured on numerous radio stations across the country, including most recently NPR's Performance Today and Arizona's KBAQ as "CD of the Week."

Jennifer Caine was the first-prize winner of the Yamaha Music Foundation of Europe Competition in 2004 and recipient of several awards including the Isolde Menges Prize, Polonsky Foundation Grant and Frank Huntington Beebe Grant for Musicians. Jennifer is a graduate of Harvard University with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Music and Slavic Languages and Literatures, and holds Master of Music Degrees from the Royal College of Music and Oxford University. 

Sally Singer won the John Ireland Chamber Music Competition, UK, was a top prizewinner in the Corpus Christi International Young Artists competition, and was offered two fellowships to perform at the Tanglewood Music Center in Lenox, MA. As a soloist, Sally has recently appeared with the Danbury Symphony Orchestra, CT, and the Pleven Philharmonic, Bulgaria, where the Polemics of Art Journal review referred to her interpretation of Elgar's cello concerto as "a performance of the highest caliber, which will leave life-long memories for every person in the audience." Ms. Singer was awarded First Class honors at the Royal Northern College of Music, UK, has a Masters degree from the University of Texas at Austin, and a Doctorate in Musical Arts from the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

The winner of piano competitions in Russia and the United States, Oksana Ezhokina has given numerous solo and chamber performances in both countries. Her collaborations have included concerts with such ensembles as the Seattle Chamber Players, the Contemporary Chamber Players and Avalon String Quartet. A dedicated performer of contemporary works, she has premiered music by Laura Kaminsky and Paul Drescher, among others. Ms. Ezhokina was awarded a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in piano performance from the State University of New York at Stony Brook in 2004.

Trio Reviews/Quotes:

"These are rhythmically brisk, considered performances of which the ladies must, and should be proud. ICPT achieves a skillful balance and the inner dialogue is consistently maintained. I was especially taken with the effectively delineated tread between cello and piano at the outset of Schubert's wonderful second movement."

- Howard Smith, Music and Vision

"...astonishing level of ensemble playing...polish and professionalism"
"ready to really make a dent on the chamber music world"

- Xak Bjerken (member, Los Angeles Piano Quartet)

"...a crystalline performance of the work, with equal attention to Ravel's
passion and precision."


Individual Reviews:

"a performance of the highest caliber, which will leave life-long memories for
every person in the audience."

- Polemics of Art Journal (Bulgaria)

"…Complete mastery over her instrument and a highly developed musical sense…"

- Judy Gruber, The Washington Post

"The musicians played superbly throughout. I've never before heard it done
as well."

- Heuwell Tircuit, San Francisco Classical Voice