The treasures of Britain's houses were not merely visual. Musicians also frequented the salons of the aristocracy, creating their own treasures. This Saturday evening the New York Chamber Soloists, imported by the Smithsonian Resident Associate Program, will present a concert saluting and supplementing the National Gallery of Art's exhibition, "Treasure Houses of Britain." They perform at 8 p.m. in the Baird Auditorium of the Museum of Natural History.

Melvin Kaplan, the ensemble's oboist and cofounder, says that the National Gallery's "Treasure Houses" show served as "an instigating factor in terms of the program. It will be a program of works that would have been performed at one of those country houses." With tenor Charles Bressler, the ensemble will perform five songs by Purcell, five of Beethoven's Irish Songs, Handel's cantata -- "Ah! crudel, nel pianto mio" -- and, on the instrumental side, quartets by Haydn and Mozart. Explaining the presence of Handel's Italian cantata, Kaplan says that "we think of Handel -- the great internationalist -- as establishing an English style in music."

With a repertoire exceeding 250 works, the ensemble has an ample stock to draw on when developing a special thematic program. And, Kaplan says, "The forte of the group and of myself personally is our imagination . . ."