Hugo Fiorato, 98, the former principal conductor of the New York City Ballet Orchestra and a longtime summer resident of East Hampton, died on April 23 in Boston with members of his family at his side.
Maestro Fiorato conducted the New York City Ballet Orchestra for over 56 seasons, beginning with its inception in 1947 and not retiring until he was 90.
“Hugo had an innate ability, and one that is very rare with conductors for the ballet. When I was dancing and Hugo was on the podium, he was always there for me, yet he never compromised the integrity of the music,” Peter Martins, the director of the company, said in an announcement of Mr. Fiorato’s death.
He was born in 1914 in New York City to Noe Fiorato, a sculptor, and Anna Kress, a singer. He began playing the violin at the age of 4 and made his debut at 6 at Carnegie Hall with the New York Philharmonic. Later, he studied at the Juilliard School and continued his studies in Italy.
During the 1940s and ’50s, along with his work for the New York City Ballet, Mr. Fiorato conducted the radio orchestras of the NBC Symphony. He also was the conductor and musical director of the Boston Ballet, the Houston Ballet, and the National Ballet, and he conducted performances at the White House for Presidents Eisenhower, Johnson, Nixon, and Carter. He founded the WQXR String Quartet, with which he performed for more than 20 years. While on international tours with the New York ballet, he conducted such orchestras as the Japan Philharmonic and Lamoureux Symphonie Orchestre de Paris.
As the New York City Ballet Orchestra’s conductor in its early years, Mr. Fiorato worked with the company’s founder, George Balanchine, and became a friend. He once said that during the early days, he “did everything but sweep the floors.” Remarking once on Balanchine’s genius, Mr. Fiorato said, “He always knew what tempo he wanted and insisted on getting it that way.” He also was a friend of the choreographer Jerome Robbins.
In East Hampton, where he lived on Lily Pond Lane, Mr. Fiorato enjoyed fishing and sailing. Jonathan D. Scott, a stepson, said this week that Mr. Fiorato had been as accomplished a sailor as he was a violinist and musician.
Mr. Fiorato survived his wife of 35 years, Joelyn Scott Fiorato, a writer and former New York Times movie critic, who died of cancer in 2007, and his daughter, Jan Fiorato, who died of cancer in 1994. His stepson Jonathan Scott is president and chief executive officer of Victory Programs at Joelyn’s Family Home in Boston, which was named for his mother, Mr. Fiorato’s wife, and to which memorial contributions have been suggested. It serves homeless women who are fighting substance abuse.
He also is survived by a son, James Fiorato of Block Island, another stepson, S. Christopher Scott of Edgartown, Mass., a stepdaughter, Stephanie Gilchrist Hut of Stowe, Vt., and six grandchildren.
In accordance with the maestro’s wishes, no memorial service was held. Victory Programs at Joelyn’s Family Home can be addressed at 965 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston 02118, or donations can be made online at vpi.org.