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Harilaos Perpessa and The Quest for the Res Simplex: Notes on Arnold Schoenberg’s Doubting Disciple

Regrettably, Harilaos Perpessa (1907 – 1995) is not to be found in the indices of most books on twentieth-century music. The man, who used to sign his scores as ‘HP Aquarius’ led a life besides, despite, or even against his own age. Perpessa’s music has been occasionally described as ‘meta-romantic’; as written in an ‘interesting musical idiom of persuasive power’ (Bruno Walter); as owing much to Bruckner, Strauss, Mahler, Debussy, and Ravel. In an article in the October 1938 issue of Revue de musicologie purporting to portray contemporary Greek musical life –a paragon, rather, of disinformation- National School composer Petro Petrides (1892 – 1977) reports: “Ch. Perpessa has, like many others, sacrificed to the gods of atonality [sic]”. (In the next phrase Petrides cites Skalkottas as merely the orchestral arranger of folk-dances).