Harry Rabinowitz, composer and conductor, dies at 100

  • Published
Harry Rabinowitz in 1953Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Rabinowitz, pictured in 1953, started out conducting the BBC radio orchestra

The composer and conductor Harry Rabinowitz, who conducted the scores for more than 60 films including Chariots of Fire, has died aged 100.

Born in Johannesburg in 1916, he came to England in 1946 to study at London's Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

He made regular appearances on TV and radio in the 1950s and '60s, working with the likes of Stanley Holloway, Terry-Thomas and The Goons.

He went on to work repeatedly with the British director Anthony Minghella.

According to his family, Rabinowitz - who was married twice - died at his house in France.

He was a conductor on BBC Radio and went on to become head of music at BBC TV Light Entertainment, before moving to London Weekend Television in 1968.

He remained there until 1977 - the year he became an MBE.

Image caption,
His many collaborators included the comedian Terry-Thomas (right)

Rabinowitz conducted the UK's Eurovision Song Contest entries in 1964 and 1966 and was the first conductor of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Cats.

He was Bafta nominated in 1984 for the music he composed for Reilly: Ace of Spies and received the Gold Award from the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (Basca) two years later.

Rabinowitz's many conducting credits included several productions from the Merchant Ivory team, among them Maurice, Howards End and The Remains of the Day.

Minghella, with whom the conductor worked on The English Patient, The Talented Mr Ripley and Cold Mountain, described him as "the UK's best kept secret".

Appearing on Desert Island Discs last year, Rabinowitz attributed his success to his learning to read music "very quickly and very accurately" at an early age.

"A score which would normally take somebody 20 minutes to put right... I reckon I can do it in seven-and-a-half minutes," he told the BBC's Kirsty Young.

Rabinowitz had been due to take part in a concert with the London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican in London in November to mark both his birthday and his long career.

The LSO said it was "devastated not to have the chance to celebrate his magnificent contribution", adding it would be contacting ticket holders shortly.

Around the BBC