Michael Stern leads the Kansas City Symphony in his final performances as music director; he becomes the orchestra’s music director laureate in July. Photo by Eric T. Williams/Kansas City Symphony.

In Saturday’s (6/22) KC Studio (Kansas City, Missouri), Libby Hanssen writes, “ ‘This orchestra is a jewel,’ said Michael Stern from the stage of Helzberg Hall at Friday’s performance of the Kansas City Symphony. Stern’s term as music director of the Kansas City Symphony concludes this weekend, with a gratifying and uplifting performance featuring music by Felix Mendelssohn, Samuel Barber, Jean Sibelius and the surprise inclusion of Johannes Brahms arranged by Bright Sheng. For over 20 years, Stern has worked with the Kansas City Symphony, first as a guest conductor in 2003, then as candidate, then music director, a position he’s held for 19 seasons. This orchestra is a different beast than what he first encountered, much of that due to his leadership and influence. About three fourths of the current roster are musicians who joined the group during Stern’s tenure. The move to Helzberg Hall in September 2011, built specifically for orchestral performance, has allowed these combined talents to expand and grow…. This concert had no guest soloist (much of the season featured internationally acclaimed guest soloists …). ‘I wanted it to be just us,’ Stern said … just Stern and the 80-member ensemble … Before any music was played, there was a standing ovation for Stern.”