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Rabinowitz' musical career began as a six-week stint playing sheet music for potential customers in a Johannesburg department store. His first job conducting an orchestra was for a show called Strike a New Note in 1945, using a rolled-up newspaper for a baton.
Rabinowitz left Johannesburg for England in 1946 to study conducting.
He was conductor of the BBC Revue Orchestra (1953–60), music director for BBC Television Light Entertainment (1960–68), and head of music for London Weekend Television (1968–77). He has conducted at the Hollywood Bowl (1983-84) and the Boston Pops Orchestra (1985-92). He has conducted the London Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. He was the conductor at the Orchestra of St. Luke's Ismail Merchant and James Ivory 35th anniversary celebration at Carnegie Hall on 17 September 1996.
He has conducted the film scores for dozens of movies including Chariots of Fire (1981), Return to Oz (1985), The Remains of the Day (1993), The English Patient (1996), The Talented Mr. Ripley(1999), and Cold Mountain (2003). He has also composed music for television including The Frost Report (1966), I, Claudius (1976), The Agatha Christie Hour (1982), and Reilly, Ace of Spies (1983).
Rabinowitz is a great believer in under-rehearsing orchestras, hoping it can be said of him that he never wasted his colleagues’ time.
In June 2015 Rabinowitz was the guest on BBC Radio 4's Desert Island Discs. His choices included West End Blues by Louis Armstrong and Earl Hines; the Piano Sonata No. 2 in A major, Op. 2, No. 2 by Beethoven; the Hymn to Diana by Peter Pears, Dennis Brain and Benjamin Britten; the fourth movement of the Symphony No. 1 by Walton; She by Charles Aznavour; Memory by Elaine Paige and Kip's Lights from the soundtrack of The English Patient by Gabriel Yared. His favourite piece was the theme tune to Reilly, Ace of Spies, a composition by himself based on a theme by Dmitri Shostakovich. His book choice was The Red and the Black by Stendhal and his luxury item was a pitch pipe. He reminded the presenter Kirsty Young that, at the age of 99, he had been waiting for the invitation, since first being offered an appearance on the show, for 63 years. Rabinowitz still plays the piano daily.
Rabinowitz has been married twice. On 15 December 1944, he wed Lorna Thurlow Anderson. They divorced in 2000. On 18 March 2001, he wed Mary (Mitzi) C. Scott. He has three children: daughters Karen Lesley (born 1947) and Lisa Gabrielle (born 1960) and son Simon Oliver (born 1951). He lives in Portland, Oregon, from November through March and the rest of the year in Provence.
- Debrett's People of Today. Debrett's Peerage Ltd, 2008.
- Marquis Who's Who, 2008.
- Strauss, Neil. "Lush Odes to the Art of Two Film Makers", New York Times, 19 September 1996, p. C16.
- Harry Rabinowitz at the Internet Movie Database Retrieved on 7 March 2009
- Peter Korn, Q&A with Harry Rabinowitz, 05 July, 2015.
- London Gazette MBE Listings, Retrieved on 05, July, 2015