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Originally published January 13, 2011 at 7:03 PM | Page modified January 18, 2011 at 12:21 PM

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Corrected version

This story was corrected on Jan. 18, 2011.

Seattle Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra makes Benaroya Hall debut with 'German Masterworks'

Now in its second season, the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra presents an evening of "German Masterworks" at Benaroya Hall on Saturday.

Special to The Seattle Times

CONCERT PREVIEW

'German Masterworks'

Seattle Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Benaroya Hall, 200 University St., Seattle; $10-$15 (206-215-4747 or www.seattlesymphony.org).

There's a reason the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra (SMCO) features works by Beethoven in three out of its four remaining concerts in 2011.

It's not just because SMCO founder and conductor Geoffrey Larson cites the composer as a personal favorite. It's because, he says, "Beethoven is terrifying to do exactly right. But it's time to make the effort."

The effort will be made Saturday evening when SMCO, in its second season, makes its debut in the Illsley Ball Nordstrom Recital Hall at Benaroya Hall, performing Beethoven's Symphony No. 1 in C major on a bill called "German Masterworks."

Also on the program is Schumann's Cello Concerto in A minor, featuring cellist Adam Cathcart, and Brahms' Serenade No. 1 in D major.

Larson, 24, says he is excited to lead his players in Nordstrom Hall, a spacious venue that nevertheless feels intimate and offers superb acoustics. But he also speaks highly of SMCO's usual performance space, the appealing Daniels Recital Hall, formerly the First United Methodist Church, at Fifth Avenue and Marion Street.

Enthusiasm has both permeated and surrounded SMCO since its beginnings in the fall of 2009. Larson, a Seattle native, began the ensemble with a couple of other people while a student of the University of Washington's now-retired professor of conducting, Peter Erös.

Establishing himself as the volunteer orchestra's music director, Larson turned SMCO into a magnet for young, post-college, accomplished players. The musicians, mostly from Seattle, Tacoma and Bellevue, come and go; the size of the full orchestra is about 29.

Most SMCO players are in their 20s (the oldest is 40), and many also perform with other ensembles, including Michael Tilson Thomas' New World Symphony. Larson says the current string section is the best the group has seen so far.

Following the "German Masterworks" night, the orchestra next prepares for a "Baroque Celebration" on Feb. 28 at Meany Hall; an intriguing "Masters of the Theatre" program April 29 at Daniels (featuring Beethoven's Egmont Overture); and a season finale, May 20, also at Daniels (with Beethoven's Violin Concerto in D major).

Asked why he chose to take on the large task of forming and maintaining a functioning orchestra so early in his conducting career, Larson, who's also principal clarinetist for the UW's Symphony Orchestra and Wind Ensemble, says "a young conductor leans on an orchestra the way a player leans on an instrument."

"I'm looking for opportunities to explore and experience repertoire and work with great musicians," Larson says. "There's a great amount of talent here, and it's a valuable experience for me."

Tom Keogh: tomwkeogh@yahoo.com

The Seattle Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra will perform a "Baroque Celebration" on Feb. 28 at Meany Hall.

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