ART

Robert Adam, the 18th-century English architect, was a man of superabundant gifts. Adam designed the whole building from the ground up; then, too, he sometimes designed the grounds for these country estates. He was, in short, a complete and splendid architect. All of this is in evidence in the exhibition, "Robert Adam and Kedleston: The Making of a Neo-Classical Masterpiece," currently on view at the Octagon Museum. The show is focused upon the building itself -- it is the next best thing to going there. The exhibition provides insight into the world of Adam's clients as well as the totality of his architectural enterprise.

CLASSICAL MUSIC

Composer Krzysztof Penderecki will be the guest conductor of the National Symphony Thursday in a program that will include his Violin Concerto and Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5. Violinist Christiane Edinger will be the soloist in the concerto. Another notable violinist performing here this week will be Itzhak Perlman, Friday night at the Kennedy Center.

Two short Christmas operas -- "A Christmas Miracle" by the late Mark Fax and "Amahl and the Night Visitors" by Gian Carlo Menotti -- will be performed by the Nevilla Ottley Singers Saturday and next Sunday in Howard University's Rankin Chapel. Selections from "Amahl," along with traditional carols, will be sung by the Maryland Boy Choir Friday night in the University of Maryland's Tawes Recital Hall.

Other unusual Christmas programs this week will include: the Barnes and Hampton Celtic Consort, Friday, Saturday and Sunday at the Dumbarton Church; "Christmas with Jean Ritchie," presented by Hesperus, Saturday night in Gaston Hall; Pomerium Musices and Calliope, Saturday night at the University of Maryland; Britten's "A Ceremony of Carols" sung by the University of Maryland Chorus Saturday night and Sunday afternoon in the Memorial Chapel and by the American University Chorale Saturday night in the Westmoreland Congregational Church; Respighi's "Laud to the Nativity," performed by the Arlington Metropolitan Chorale, Saturday night and Sunday afternoon in the Washington-Lee High School Auditorium; excerpts from Bach's "Christmas Oratorio" and Tchaikovsky's "The Nutcracker," performed by the Alexandria Symphony and the Alexandria Choral Society, Saturday night at T.C. Williams High School; and a varied program by the Cantate Chamber Singers, Saturday night at Bradley Hills Presbyterian Church and Sunday night in Gaston Hall. At last count, there were also at least 17 different groups planning to perform "Messiah" between now and Christmas.

The world premiere of "Who Am I?" a new opera for children by Seymour Barab, will be given Saturday by the Opera Theatre of Northern Virginia.

Also worth noting: pianists Bruce Brubaker, today at the Phillips Collection; Marjorie Lee, tonight at the National Gallery; and Carla Hubner, Tuesday night at Mount Vernon College; the Mozarteum Orchestra of Salzburg, Tuesday night at the Kennedy Center; composer Mario Davidovsky, Wednesday night in the Terrace Theater; Opera Jeunesse, Wednesday night in the Concert Hall; violinist Ali Forough and pianist Carolyn McCracken Forough, Thursday night in the Terrace Theater; bassist Robert Black, Friday night in the Baird Auditorium; the Manchester String Quartet, Friday night at the Holton-Arms School; the Smithsonian Chamber Players, Friday night in the Hall of Musical Instruments; the Emerson String Quartet with pianist Menahem Pressler, Friday night at the Library of Congress; pianist David Allen Wehr, Saturday afternoon in the Terrace Theater; the Fairfax Symphony Orchestra, Saturday afternoon at Fairfax High School; the 20th Century Consort, Saturday at the Hirshhorn Museum; the Amsterdam Guitar Trio, Saturday night in the Baird Auditorium; the McLean Orchestra, Saturday night in the Langley High School auditorium; clarinetist Charles Stier and saxophonist Gary Louie, Saturday night in the Terrace Theater; violinist Andrea Cappelletti and pianist Ida Varricchio, Saturday night in the Hall of Musical Instruments; the Prince George's Philharmonic, playing the world premiere of Lori Laitman's "Eons," Saturday night in the First United Methodist Church of Hyattsville; the Muir String Quartet, Saturday and next Sunday nights at the Jewish Community Center in Rockville.

DANCE

The National Dance Company of Senegal concludes its run at the Warner Theatre with performances this afternoon and this evening.

The area premiere of artistic director Meriam Rosen's "Looking Back" will be a feature of the program by Improvisations Unlimited at the University of Maryland Wednesday through Saturday.

An adventurous dance-theater troupe from England, THE KOSH, begins a three-week run of "The Edge," with a script by British playwright David Pownall, Wednesday through Sunday at Baltimore's Theatre Project.

And in its area debut, New York's Shapiro & Smith Dance offers a program of duets at the Dance Place Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.

FILM

The AFI is playing Santa this year with a stockingful of 11 Yuletide classics. This is a greatest hits time o' year, and, from now until Dec. 19, the program will include such films as "White Christmas," "Miracle on 34th Street," two versions of "A Christmas Carol" (the 1938 edition as well as the 1951 classic with Alistair Sim), "Meet Me in St. Louis" and, of course, "It's a Wonderful Life." To avoid the danger of too much Christmas cheer, the AFI has thrown in "Gremlins" to round things out and add a faint sobering note.

POP MUSIC

It's not "December," but it's George Winston and his pastoral piano at the Kennedy Center's Concert Hall on Sunday and Monday.

The Christmas Revels have become one of Washington's brightest seasonal traditions; this year, five concerts at Lisner, Friday through Sunday, will feature Celtic music and dance traditions. On a more localized level, the Gael, a lute-powered Celtic and classical quartet, makes its own three-night stand at Dumbarton Church Friday through Sunday.

Washington's blues musicians aren't dreaming of a blue Christmas; in fact, on Friday, they're coming together in a major fundraiser for the Community for Creative Non-Violence and Washington's homeless. At Gaston Hall with a lineup featuring every acoustic blues man and woman in Washington.