mata hari

(1992) 12′
string quartet

First Prize in the Washington International Competition 1994



violins Irvine Arditti, Graeme Jennings
viola Dov Scheindlin
cello Rohan de Saram 

Program Notes

The initial idea for this work originated out of my fascination with the persona Mata Hari and my interest in dance.  Combining the two, I decided to write a sort of "erotic" dance as  I imagined Mata Hari might have performed.  Mata Hari,  whose real name was Margaretha Geertruida Zelle, was executed on October 15, 1917 by the French military accused of spying for the Germans.  She gained fame, throughout  Europe, for her erotic dances as well as for her numerous affairs with French, Dutch and German government officials and secret service agents.  The persona, Mata Hari, defined the myth of the secret agent and brought the profession to its highest regard in this century. In 1932, French authorities recognized that no tangible evidence had been found against her.


… with the strongest impact was Eugénio Rodrigues' 'Mata Hari' for string quartet… It opened simply, with a long series of harmonized drones like a bagpipe, then grew in complexity–notably in its intricate, powerful dance rhythms–to represent the character of the World War I spy and femme fatale.

The Washington Post - Washington, DC December 17, 1994

Score Excerpts