In 1982 renowned Russian pianist Vladimir Ashkenazy toured New Zealand. With the combined support of TVNZ, Radio New Zealand and the NZ Symphony Orchestra, a one-off televised concert was arranged. Ashkenazy plays two pieces backed by the NZSO at the Auckland Town Hall, after an interview by Ian Fraser, in which the pianist praises the NZSO's ability to handle a piece he describes as "almost unplayable in parts". In the second clip, he plays Béla Bartók’s Second Concerto, and in the third clip — which appears never to have gone to air — César Franck’s Symphonic Variations.
It is a miracle of formal thinking, even though it is outwardly rhapsodic. The piano part is more difficult than it seems, since the piece is in the tricky key of F sharp.– Writer Phillip Scott on César Franck’s Symphonic Variations, Limelight magazine, 13 April 2015