An air of almost religious solemnity seemed to settle in the Wigmore Hall before this, the second concert in a series of Bach recitals from András Schiff. Beginning not with one of the grand rhetorical overtures but with the Fifth Partita’s zany Praeambulum, Schiff – with typical wry humour – swept this fustiness aside, instead inviting his capacity audience to avoid complacency and engage with these masterpieces and, most importantly, fresh ears. Later, a daringly slow “Tempo di minuetto” made for some seriously droll interplay between triple and duple time whilst a poised rendition of the Passepied exuded rustic charm. In the A minor Partita (no. 3) which followed, a breezy Sarabande was juxtaposed with a heavy and vigorous account of the Burlesca and Scherzo, both of which followed in rapid succession, creating a sense of increasing momentum before a dynamic final fugue.

The recital was carefully sculpted into a sequence of ever-increasing intensity which placed the partitas in an ascending line from G major to E minor. Only two of the partitas followed one another in their usual order; the austere opening of the C minor Partita (no. 2)’s Sinfonia crashing in after the rollicking gigue of the B flat major (no. 1) to great effect. In this Sinfonia (a true Adagio tempo, not slower) as in all the multi-sectional movements, Schiff really showed himself to be a master of pacing, letting the chord die away before the following Andante but then seamless changing into triple time. This partita contained some of the most uncompromising playing of the evening – particularly in a driving, almost severe, reading of the Rondeaux and in the knotty textures of the concluding Capriccio.

Whilst often idiosyncratic, Schiff’s approach displayed none of the overwrought and overthought traits which sometimes impeded his Bach playing in the past. Instead there seemed to be a greater sense of freedom, and a looseness – particularly noticeable in his striking use of rubato which, for the most part, was unaffected and convincing.

In a second half dedicated to the two lengthiest partitas – the Fourth and Sixth – Schiff’s performance rose to even greater heights of subtlety and insight. He imbued the French Overture which opens the D major (no. 4) with a joyous and utterly glorious sense of abandon, and brought intimacy and depth to both its Allemande and its Sarabande. Placed last, the Sixth Partita’s far-reaching and all encompassing vision was more apparent than ever. The cataclysmic dissonances and extended fugue of its opening Toccata, the Sarabande’s poignant, wandering chromaticisms, and the devastatingly lonely Allemande were all vividly and lovingly conveyed, whilst a barnstorming Gigue confirmed Schiff as an artist working at the very top of his game.