News accounts of Sen. Edward Kennedy's (D-Mass.) recent trip to the Soviet Union have conveyed the impression that his meeting with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev was a scene of some cordiality, despite Gorbachev's suggestion that he wouldn't agree on a date for the next summit meeting, to be held in Washington, until he saw the prospect of real progress on an arms control agreement.

According to a source close to Kennedy, the encounter was at times much chillier than portrayed. The senator secured Gorbachev's agreement to the emigration of 25 Soviet Jews for whom Kennedy interceded -- but part of the price, it seems, was that Kennedy endure a nonstop, half-hour lecture about U.S. human rights violations. Kennedy, who had apparently expected to encounter a less forbidding, rigid figure, reportedly considered arguing, but decided such a gesture would be pointless -- and counterproductive.

Although he forebore, the source says Kennedy concluded that Gorbachev is by no means the storied man of charm many have perceived in him, and that he appears to be a much harder man than, for instance, Leonid Brezhnev.

Affairs of State . . . Senior personnel of U.S. diplomacy toward the Soviet Union will be changing in the coming months . . . Insiders say John F. (Jack) Matlock, a career Foreign Service officer who has been a specialist on Soviet affairs at the National Security Council, will be named U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union later this year to replace Arthur A. Hartman. But the switch isn't likely to happen until after the next Reagan-Gorbachev summit, if the summit takes place this summer.

Meanwhile at Foggy Bottom, the top Soviet specialist in the State Department, Deputy Assistant Secretary R. Mark Palmer, is to be named ambassador to Hungary, replacing Hungarian-born businessman Nicholas Salgo. Stepping into Palmer's post will be Thomas W. Simons Jr., a career specialist who headed State's Soviet desk.

Budget Watch . . . Although the president said recently that an AIDS cure is one of the administration's top health priorities, his fiscal 1987 budget actually seeks to cut AIDS funding to less than Congress voted last year.

For fiscal 1985, Congress voted $108 million in new budget authority for AIDS programs. For fiscal 1986, it voted $244 million -- in excess of what the administration wanted. But the new budget proposes that the fiscal 1986 figure be cut to $193 million; for fiscal 1987, the president's budget proposes that it rise to only $213 million.

Officials at a budget briefing on the issue said the amounts requested by the president would be enough to fund needed research. Whether the administration is prepared for the political fallout is another question.

Another certain hot potato is the proposal to chop the number of new biomedical research grants for the National Institutes of Health. Reagan's budget would cut the number of new grants -- which go to such mainstream endeavors as cancer and arthritis research -- from the 6,100 already voted by Congress for fiscal 1986 to 5,450, and then to lower it in fiscal 1987 to 5,140, and lower it some more in fiscal 1988. The administration says the total number of grants being funded in 1987 will be about 18,000, but this reasoning may not appeal to Congress.

No Stone Unturned . . . With sunset closing in on the Synthetic Fuels Corp., Chairman Edward E. Noble is helping smooth the way to new jobs for the agency's staff.

Noble recently praised the attributes of the corporation's staff in a letter: "I believe many have skills and experience which could be of real benefit in your organization."

Maybe. But maybe not. The letter was sent to the Environmental Policy Institute, a nonprofit group that helped lead the move to abolish the Synfuels Corp. -- From Staff Reports