On Friday 2 October, RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra LIVE continues with David Young, making his professional orchestral debut, conducting works by Rossini, Fauré and Mozart - including Mozart's penultimate symphony, the 'great G minorNo. 40, and the Suite from Fauré’s Masques et Bergamasques.

Here he talks about first steps – and not expecting the unexpected.

Starting is always difficult. Do you dive straight in, or do you feel your way through in the first instance, giving everyone time to get on board before you set off? Mozart certainly wasn’t in a mood to hang around at the beginning of his 40th Symphony – the centrepiece of his ‘trilogy’ of final symphonies, all written in 1788. He drops us right into the action, with one of the most eternal melodies to come from his pen. From there on, the music surges forward restlessly and urgently, Mozart always in complete control of where we as listeners are heading, but never allowing us to feel totally comfortable about the route.

When I flew home to London from Dublin on March 12th, I had no idea that the night before I had conducted my last rehearsal for well over six months.

Some of the most arresting moments of the piece are where the melody you were expecting is harmonised in a way you weren’t, or where the tune itself is changed in small but vital ways to recast its character, draw your attention – and perhaps make you a little uncomfortable. In the end, the conclusions of each movement, and of the whole piece, feel inexorable – it was always going to finish this way – but along the way, it seemed like we might not end up where we had hoped or expected.

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Take the first movement as an example. The very opening of the piece is two bars of simple lower strings accompaniment, after which the first, unforgettable melody enters. Under a minute later, when this melody enters for the second time, it starts before the string accompaniment. This change in the harmonic rhythm allows Mozart to simply but radically alter the character of the melody, from a yearning and desperate colour first time round to a fundamentally optimistic version, with only a few basic chord changes and moving a few notes upwards. This leads us firmly into a new, strong melody in a major key – were we wrong about the overall character of this piece? Was that melancholic opening just an introduction, and is the piece in fact going to be uplifting and positive?

Sometimes the journey takes us to places we really didn't expect, and sometimes it leads us to places we always knew we would end up, but in totally unexpected ways.

This movement is so familiar to many of us that we probably now know the overall tone is closer to tragedy than joy, but the constant shifting of the musical sands from darkness, to light, back to darkness, and all the shades of subtlety in between, are what gives this true masterpiece its evergreen allure. The start is clear, and, if we think about it, where the end will be is clear. But what happens in between is something we cannot count on, something that no-one can predict. And even though we know the journey to be one of darkness, there is so much light, so much fun, and so much surprise along the way that we cannot help but enjoy it.

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For me, starting in-person work as a conductor again has come in a totally unexpected way, with my professional orchestral debut this coming Friday. When I flew home to London from Dublin on March 12th, I had no idea that the night before I had conducted my last rehearsal for well over six months. If you'd told me then that choral rehearsals would be cancelled all the way into the winter, that I would soon be using Zoom to rehearse singers from across the Irish sea, and that the next time I would be stood in front of an ensemble it would be the NSO playing Mozart, Fauré and Rossini, I would never have believed you – I didn’t even know what Zoom was...

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Sometimes the journey takes us to places we really didn’t expect, and sometimes it leads us to places we always knew we would end up, but in totally unexpected ways. I haven’t quite made my mind up about which one of those two this week represents for me…but I know how happy I am to be here, and how grateful I am to be able to express myself through this incredible music – something many of my musical colleagues are still waiting for another chance to do.

David Young

This privilege isn’t lost on me, nor on any musician lucky enough to be performing right now. So I do hope that you’ll be able to join me and the RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra on Friday for the next part of the NSO’s strangest of new beginnings, broadcast from an empty National Concert Hall in Dublin to you, wherever you may be. We are all journeying together through the unknown just now, but the comfort and joy which art can bring us remains something we can all rely on.

Watch RTÉ National Symphony Orchestra LIVE here on RTÉ Culture from 7 pm on Fridays, and listen live on RTÉ lyric fm - more details here.