Jewish composer and conductor Harry Rabinowitz, whose credits included Chariots of Fire, The English Patient and Cold Mountain, has died at the age of 100.

Born in Johannesburg in 1916, South Africa, Rabinowitz began his musical career as a six-week stint playing sheet music for potential customers in a department store.

He left South Africa for England in 1946 and by 1953 was conductor of the BBC Revue Orchestra. He later became music director for BBC Television Light Entertainment and head of music for London Weekend Television.

In that time, he twice conducted a UK Eurovision entry, in 1964 and 1966.

Other roles included conducting at the Hollywood Bowl, the Boston Pops Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra.

Aside from his film projects, for which he repeatedly worked with the British director Anthony Minghella, Rabinowitz – who was twice married and has three children – also composed music for television, including The Frost Report, I Claudius and Reilly, Ace of Spies.

Minghella described him as “the UK’s best kept secret”.

The award-winning musician was due to conduct the London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican once again in November, to mark his centenary.

According to his family, Rabinowitz died at his house in Provence, France.