The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center opened its Kennedy Center season Saturday night with a program that contained some rapturous playing from 10 illustrious musicians.

Flutist Paula Robison joined Itzhak Perlman's violin and Jaime Laredo's viola in Beethoven's Serenade, giving the early work all the proper song and mirth.

Then, with Perlman and Laredo both on violins, Michael Tree on viola, and Leslie Parnas as cellist, Gervase de Peyer added his clarinet for the Brahms Quintet. Though there were times when balances were a bit out of kilter, perhaps because of the large and impersonal hall, the playing was rhapsodic, and often filled with just the right special melancholy poetry.

It was not a performance of the perfection that would go into a recording, but then, no one was recording it -- at least not officially.

The evening ended with the Mendelssohn Octet in which the four strings from the Brahms were joined by Daniel Phillips, Hiroko Yajima, Scott Nickrenz and David Soyer. While Perlman played as one among eight equals, the luster of his playing gave the top line a singular beauty. There was a measure of passion in the reading, but not always the fire Mendelssohn specified. Musicians who play this work should spend time listening to what Toscanini gave to it in one of the most memorable performances of any work. Saturday night's program was repeated live on television Sunday afternoon from Lincoln Center.