Violinist Charles Rex was born into a musical family in Winter Park, Florida, where his father was a composer and instructor at Rollins College and his mother taught piano. He started his violin studies at age four under Alphonse Carlo, professor of violin at Rollins. Following his solo debut with the Florida Symphony at age 13, he won the Hinda Honigmann Scholarship Award to the Brevard Music Center in North Carolina and toured as soloist with the BMC Orchestra throughout North and South Carolina.
Mr. Rex was awarded a full scholarship to Florida State University (FSU), where he studied with Richard Burgin, former concertmaster and associate conductor of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Other teachers included Jascha Brodsky and Berl Senofsky. In 1982 FSU honored him as a Distinguished Alumnus, and the FSU School of Music presented him with the Ernst von Dohnányi Faculty Citation for Excellence in Performance.
Immediately after graduating cum laude from FSU with bachelor and master of music degrees in performance, Mr. Rex joined The Philadelphia Orchestra under Eugene Ormandy where he played for eight years before accepting the position of Associate Concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta, a post he held for 19 years. He relinquished the position in 1999 due to an increasing demand of his time for solo appearances and recordings. Mr. Rex has also served as guest concertmaster of the London Symphony under Colin Davis and also acted as concertmaster of the Dallas, Reading, and Delaware symphony orchestras.
In 1988 Charles Rex toured Egypt and Jordan as soloist with the Princeton Chamber Orchestra under conductor Mark Laycock, and he was the first American to appear as soloist in the new Cairo Opera House. The PBS documentary about this tour, Classical Caravans, was honored with an Emmy Award. The Borough of Staten Island of New York City also made March 13 of that year “Charles Rex Day” on the occasion of a special recital he performed there on behalf of the New York Philharmonic.
Mr. Rex has been soloist with the New York Philharmonic numerous times, including in performances of Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons and the violin concertos of Tchaikovsky and Nielsen. His performance of Hindemith’s Violin Concerto with the Philharmonic was released on a special fund-raising CD for the Orchestra’s Radiothons. He and his brother Christopher Rex, principal cello of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, gave the World Premiere of Stephen Paulus’s Concerto for Violin and Cello, a work that the New York Philharmonic commissioned especially for the two brothers for the Philharmonic’s 150th anniversary season in conjunction with the Atlanta Symphony. Other highlights include the New York Premiere of John Harbison’s Violin Concerto and the World Premieres of Gunther Schuller’s Concerto Quaternio with the New York Philharmonic and David Ott’s Violin Concerto, commissioned by the Reading Symphony (Pennsylvania). He performed Bach’s Double Violin Concerto on a Philharmonic tour of Japan, India, South Korea, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Other solo appearances have included performances with the Atlanta, Cincinnati, Charlotte, Tucson, Milwaukee, Charleston, Florida, Transylvania, Reading, and Northwest Indiana symphony orchestras; the Denver Chamber Orchestra; and the Manhattan and Queens Philharmonic orchestras. His performances in the New York Philharmonic Ensembles series at Merkin Concert Hall have included Schoenberg’s Phantasy for Violin and Piano, which was broadcast twice over the series’ radio broadcasts due to public demand, and Song Cycle on A.E. Housman Poems written by his composer father, Charles Gordon Rex.
A feature-length documentary, Concerto for Two Brothers by Cristina Cassidy Productions, on the Rex brothers’ musical careers and the influence of their composer father, is to be released soon at film festivals and on television. Charles and Christopher Rex are also featured as soloists on an Elysium recording of Saint-Saëns’s La Muse et le poète for violin, cello, and orchestra, with the Czech Republic’s Bohuslav Martinů Philharmonic, led by Peter Tiboris. Charles Rex’s other recordings include Copland’s Piano Quartet for EMI and the World Premiere recording for Opus One label of American composer Mary Jeanne van Appledorn’s Rhapsody for Violin and Orchestra with the Polish National Radio Orchestra, led by Joel Suben.
Charles Rex plays on a violin made by J.B. Guadagnini in 1740 known as the “Ex-Hill,” formerly owned by Theremin virtuosa Clara Rockmore.