Shifting its players around with a frequency that brought to mind Jack Pardee and the Redskins, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center opened its Washington season at the Kennedy Center Saturday night. Sent out in threes, multiples of threes and some groupings in between, this gifted team of musicians moved deftly back and forth over the centuries in a widely varied program.

It could have seemed a hodgepodge, but there were just enough constants -- most notably, every performer's delightful way with a phrase -- to make the evening highly enjoyable. Leading off in a Telemann trumpet concerto, soloist Edward Carroll set the standard with a succession of liquid melodies which were echoed by soprano Judith Blegen's velvet shading of a Handel aria.

In the cello feast that followed, the Brahmsian lines of David Popper's "Requiem for Three Cellos and Piano" were richly realized by Leslie Parnas, Charles Curtis and Fred Sherry and pianist Charles Wadsworth. Then suddenly there was a multitude of cellists -- eight, to be exact -- glorying in Villa-Lobos' fifth "Bachianas Brasileiras," for which soprano soloist Blegen and solo cellist Parnas found the most sensuous of sounds. Oboist Leonard Arner had a chance to disply the lyricism of his instrument in a rarely heard "Quintet for Oboe and Strings" by Sir Arthur Bliss before Blegen and trumpeter Carroll returned to close with dazzling exchanges in a Scarlatti aria from the opera "Endimione e Cintia."