When the University of Maryland's vocal faculty gives a recital, as it did Wednesday evening in the Gildenhorn Recital Hall, the result can be a world-class event. The program, titled "Love in 3/4 Time: A Tribute to the Late Dr. Robert McCoy," could have graced any recital hall in the world and received the standing ovation it got from the connoisseurs in the Maryland audience.

The program was made up of two closely related works: Robert Schumann's "Spanish Love-Songs," Op. 138, and Brahms's "Liebeslieder" (Love-Song) Waltzes, Op. 52 -- vocal chamber music at its highest level. This genre was dear to the late McCoy (1951-2000), who was a piano accompanist and vocal coach on the Maryland faculty, and it was performed by his colleagues with an affection that matched their excellent vocal capabilities and stylistic sensibilities.

In the 19th century, these works were written and published primarily for amateur performers, with the expectation that they would be sung and played by family and friends in private homes, two players side by side at the family piano producing chords of orchestral richness and four singers blending and balancing their voices in memorably expressive harmonies.

The music's existence testifies to the high level of performing skill attained by amateurs in those pre-television years. While it never overtaxed the skills of the Maryland performers, it gave them rich opportunities to display their strengths: the rich tone and expressive power of soprano Linda Mabbs and mezzo-soprano Delores Ziegler, the Viennese charm of tenor Gran Wilson, the precise phrasing and stylistic awareness of baritone Dominic Cossa. Duo-pianists Rita Sloan and Miah Im were beautifully coordinated with one another and with the singers.

-- Joseph McLellan