Rolf Charlston

Classical Host

Architecture, history, literature, and music constitute the guiding forces of Renaissance Rolf's life. In addition to his work at WRTI, he's an architecture and history guide, and a lecturer on literature and music.

Rolf's radio career began in high school as a sports announcer of high school games in Portland, OR.  He continued with sports and added classical music on the radio at St. Olaf College where he received his undergraduate degree in history.

Then he collected a bevy of graduate degrees in theology, the arts, and English literature at the University of Chicago and the University of Illinois. He received his Ph.D. in English specializing in Joseph Conrad.  He served as a university Lutheran chaplain, choir director, and English professor in Chicago, and as an academic dean at St. Joseph's University.

Music is in his genes: Rolf has sung bass with the St. Olaf Choir and Philadelphia's Choral Arts Society.  His two children are Juilliard graduates and professional musicians in New York City, doing classical music and jazz.

Hear Rolf as a substitute host. Read this article about Rolf's last hurrah as Saturday morning host!

Ways to Connect

Franz Schubert's Notturno in Eb, D. 897, performed by the Stuttgart Piano Trio, is featured on CD 1 in the WRTI 60th Anniversary Classical 3-CD set.

The Notturno in Eb or Adagio was probably written just one year prior to Schubert's death at the early age of 31. Although the work was published posthumously with the title Notturno (Nocturne), Schubert merely labeled it "Adagio" as it may have been intended as a movement in a larger work for piano trio. With the clarity and contrast of the piano and two, stringed instruments, listen for the simple, Schubertian melody to be exchanged.

In the opening, for example, the violin and cello sing a soft duet while the piano accompanies with rolling, harp-like chords. Then the roles are reversed as the piano takes the melody, and the strings respond with a pizzicato accompaniment. The pianissimo conclusion of this little night music drifts off into a nocturnal dream.

"O Fortuna" from Carl Orff's Carmina Burana, performed by the ​Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Chorus, and Youth Chorus, and the Highcliffe Junior Choir, conducted by Marin Alsop, is featured on CD 2 in the WRTI 60th Anniversary Classical 3-CD set.

Carmina Burana begins with a blast in the opening section, "O Fortuna"—Luck, Empress of the World. Then a quiet, rhythmic repetition follows, with a smashing conclusion about the forces of life controlled by Fortune and Fate. The 25th and last section repeats the first. What's between the bookends?

Carmina Burana means "Songs of the Beurens," and are medieval poems, mostly in Latin, discovered in a monastery in 1803 in Bavaria. The musical collection includes the ephemeral pleasures of spring, health, drinking, gambling, and lust.

The Tragic Overture of Johannes Brahms, performed by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Marin Alsop, conducting, is featured on CD 1 in the WRTI 60th Anniversary Classical 3-CD set.

"One weeps, the other laughs." So Brahms remarked about his two, contrasting pair of concert overtures—the jovial Academic Festival Overture and the Tragic Overture. The complementary overtures are like the masks of the Greek dramas: Comedy facing one way, Tragedy the other.

Although Brahms read Sophocles, Shakespeare, and Goethe, in the musical tragedy he is not telling a specific story, but instead is invoking a mood, an emotional impression. Two hammer chords announce and reappear throughout the overture. It is a dark and stormy overture.