Music administrator; born November 25, 1934; died September 6, 2006.

OFTHE seven directors in the Edinburgh Festival's 59-year history, Sir John Drummond, who has died at the age of 71, was the most abrasive but by no means the least gifted. As Peter Diamand's successor, he found himself replacing - through necessity but also with conspicuous acumen - what had been a long and satisfying golden age, during which the cream of the world's conductors and soloists had come to Scotland each year as a matter of course.

Carlo Maria Giulini, Daniel Barenboim, Claudio Abbado, Herbert von Karajan, Leonard Bernstein, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, and nothing less than that, were what we had grown accustomed to, but not all of them continued to offer their services. Drummond needed - and, indeed, desired - to find new blood. He also needed to find it quickly.

The resourcefulness with which he did so ensured that standards would be maintained, though sometimes in controversial ways. His taste for ballet, while welcome, seemed initally - at least in Usher Hall terms - to be too invasive. But the first of his five festivals, in 1979, with its emphasis on young conductors, was interestingly prophetic. The presence of Simon Rattle and Riccardo Chailly, who would go on to great things, represented the wind of change.

Scottish Opera, with a new Eugene Onegin and two other productions, remained a vital presence. Things looked promising.

If the middle years of Drummond's directorship sometimes wobbled, his final one in 1983 - with Vienna 1900 as its theme and Arnold Schoenberg's picture staring balefully from the cover of the programme book - was an artistic triumph. By then he had grown impatient with the district council, with Edinburgh attitudes (what Edinburgh people wanted, he famously declared, was the previous year's festival again) and with at least one critic (the writer of this obituary) , and he was ready for something new and for an employer more appreciative of his qualities. But if his exit was bilious, his decision to leave was right.

In his (often even more acrimonious) memoirs, perfectly entitled Tainted by Experience, he said at the age of 18 his three ideal jobs were to run the Edinburgh Festival, the BBC Third Programme and the London Proms. "Eventually, after many years of learning and trial and error, I achieved it, " he declared.

Having come from the BBC in London to Edinburgh, this son of an Australian singerpianist and seafaring Scotsman returned to surroundings he knew and with which he felt, to some extent, more at ease. Though his disdain for Edinburgh and its inhabitants remained - when Brian McMaster, the most recent festival director, chose to live in Edinburgh instead of London, he told this critic he could not believe his ears - he now had a fresh sense of purpose, and he fulfilled it with an aplomb greater and more consistent than that with which he ran the Edinburgh Festival.

By then, for me, he had become a heroic figure, fighting the dumbers-down and socalled celebrities of the day with all his might. Though he continued to respect Nigel Kennedy's violin playing, he advised the ostentatious soloist to dress more sensibly and to talk with his real voice. His decision to commission a major new work, suitably entitled Panic, from Harrison Birtwistle, for the last night of the proms, was his audacious masterstroke.

Perhaps, as in Edinburgh, Drummond went too far, but this time I was with him most of the way. His capacity to make enemies, however, continued and seemed to increase, even though it was the product of his high and all-consuming belief in music and the other arts. Yet sometimes his actions did seem ill-advised, or at any rate counter-productive, as when he fell foul of members of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, with whose day-to-day life, he said, he had "no desire to be involved", and even with a conductor of the eminence of the great Gunther Wand - "all sweetness and light and Du, mein lieber Freund one moment and foul language and boorish behaviour the next". Leonard Bernstein, too, upset him by telling filthy stories in front of ladies and then, when Drummond protested, calling him a "dreary old queen".

As has been said about more than one distinguished but imperious musician, Drummond was his own worst enemy, and in some ways he paid the penalty for it. He retained what David Attenborough described as "an unlimited capacity for indignation", to the extent that you sometimes found yourself actually trying to irritate him - not a hard thing to do. As Philip French, the film critic, shrewdly put it, he was like a dictatorwho wants only applause.

On one occasion, having written a comprehensive but purely factual preview of one of his Edinburgh Festivals, I received from him, more in sorrow than in anger, a rebuke that I had failed to incorporate one single word of praise. That he himself believed he deserved praise was something he expressed quite readily. He was a great one-man show, who once publicly described his assistant, Richard Jarman, as his "faithful hound". "I shoot the game, " he said with satisfaction, "and Richard retrieves it."

Yet Jarman, since moving on from the Edinburgh Festival, has enjoyed a successful career in charge of Scottish Opera and other companies. For Drummond himself (appointed controller of Radio 3 in 1985) the management-speak of the John Birt regime at the BBC was something to be ruthlessly, but surely fatiguingly, resisted. Even the title of his memoirs was inspired by one of Birt's apparatchiks saying to him: "Why should we (the BBC) believe anything you say? You don't seem to me to have achieved much. In my view you are tainted by experience." When Drummond was knighted, the BBC did its utmost to snub him.

Yet he was a fount of useful and often delightful knowledge. Inform him that you were on your way to a littleknown town in southern France and he would instantly tell you all the things to see. Speak to him of Vladimir Nabokov and he would recommend the two volumes of Brian Boyd's biography. Part one of Stephen Walsh's great biography of Stravinsky was rightly and whole-heartedly acclaimed by him. Let us hope he managed to read part two, published last month, before he died. His own fine book on Stravinsky's great associate, Serge Diaghilev - Speaking of Diaghilev - should be in every music-lover's collection.