Meet our DFCC 2018 candidates: William Le Sage

William (28) from France, studied musicology at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique in Paris before adding conducting to his studies in 2014, taught by Alain Altinoglu. He particularly enjoys working internationally and thus spent time in U.S., Hungary and Venezuela.

William Le Sage headshot Copy

Where are you at the moment and what are you currently working on?

I am currently living in Paris where I study conducting at the conservatoire with Maestro Alain Altinoglu. I also study Orchestration there. In addition, I am working on a nice program that I will conduct in concert in December with a community orchestra: Sibelius' Symphony No 2 and Mussorgsky's Night on the bald moutain (original version 1867). I am also teaching two orchestras in a conservatoire in Nanterre, a suburb of Paris.

When did you first become interested in conducting?

Very early. As I was playing the drums in a wind band, the conductor allowed me to conduct a short piece. I think I was 13. I loved it and started taking lessons right away. Afterwards, I was very lucky to be given other opportunities to conduct the orchestras I was playing in.

Who are your musical role models?

It is very hard to say, because there are so many. I will take one: Günter Wand, a German conductor who was mostly known for his great knowledge of Bruckner. In 2002, he gave an interview to The Telegraph, and what he said cannot be closer to what I think: 'You cannot play Bach with your own feelings; you have to serve. I will not need the music to express my private ideas. I will feel the creative act, the compositional act. It is immense. It's like complete craziness. When you try to do this, then you become modest, and then you agree only to serve the music.'

How did you find out about the Donatella Flick Conducting Competition?

This Competition is very well known in France. Several of my friends already competed in it, and five French conductors formerly won the first prize and are currently holding important positions in France and abroad.

How have you been preparing for the Competition?

It is my first competition so it's a new thing for me. But after all, it's only about preparing the scores as I usually do. I just try to remember that I've conducted orchestras before and I've learned scores, so I should be able to do the same. The different thing here is that the goal is not only a concert, but a tremendous opportunity at the beginning of a career. So there is much more pressure.

What are your thoughts on the repertoire?


This is very diverse and interesting repertoire, and this is what makes it difficult. I am aware that we have a long musical history behind us, and thus a conductor nowadays needs to master a great array of styles. In this repertoire will test how much we are able to do that. Personally, I am very much looking forward to conduct most of the works, because once I deeply study a score, even if I didn't like it at first, I see all the richness it has and I don't make any difference anymore. Of course, some works fascinate me more than others: I could spend hours and hours deciphering all the details in the Linz Symphony, and understanding the harmonies and layers of motives in Die Meistersinger. I am also very excited about Tryst, because there is something exhilarating in the rhythmical repetition of motives, the shifts and accelerations of accents, the very clear differentiation between instrumental sections …

What is the piece that made you fall in love with music, either while performing it as a musician or experiencing it as an audience member?

I'm not sure of the piece that made me fall in love with music, but I do remember I understood music would be my life when I discovered Bruckner's Fourth Symphony (and all the others afterwards). It was something I had never experienced before, I felt like music was filling all the space around me. I was imagining colours, landscapes, scents … This moment is etched in my memory forever.

What is your all-time favourite piece of music?

Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody.

How do you relax? What are your hobbies?

Yoga, hiking, Netflix, Science-fiction (or just science) books and movies, The Legend of Zelda, drinks with friends…

If there is anything you could change about classical music, what would it be?

I would try to perform some pieces more often. In Paris, for example, if I want I can hear most Mahler symphonies in concert more than three times a year. If I want to hear Nielsen, however, I probably need to take the train to Copenhagen.

What advice would you give other budding conductors?

Never give up.

What would the prize mean to you? How would it help your career?

The prize would mean everything to me. It would not only be the beginning of my career, but also an unrivalled opportunity to work with one of the best orchestras in the world. Being a conductor is very hard, but the Donatella Flick LSO Conducting Competition helps the winner a lot by giving their musical life an incredible impetus.


Meet the other candidates

Find out more about the competition in 2018