The award is presented in collaboration with New York classical station WQXR FM. It precedes by three days the announcement of Gramophone's record of the year and artist of the year awards in London.
"I'm sure everyone has their own memory of Marilyn Horne's artistry," said Gramophone editor James Jolley. "I have two: a concert performance of Rossini's Semiramide at Covent Garden in which she not only demonstrated her total identification with the composer's idiom but she supported June Anderson, in the title role, with extraordinary sympathy and the kind of generosity you rarely witness on the operatic stage.
"And then there was a performance of Saint-SaêŠns' 'Mon coeur s'ouvre _ ta voix' at Dame Joan Sutherland's farewell to the stage that was simply jaw-dropping in its control, passion and intensity.
"Marilyn Horne is one of the most distinguished singers of our time," he added, "and I'm delighted to be presenting her with this major award on behalf of a magazine that has been following her career for as long as she has been recording."
Born in Bradford, Pennsylvania, in 1934, Horne studied at the University of Southern California. She made her debut in Smetana's The Bartered Bride at Los Angeles Guild Opera in 1954; the same year she sang in the film version of Oscar Hammerstein's Carmen Jones, providing the singing voice for Dorothy Dandridge's performance of the title role.
From 1957 to 1960, Horne sang with Germany's Gelsenkirchen Opera Company. She returned to the United States in 1960 to sing Marie in Berg's Wozzeck at San Francisco Opera; debuts followed at Covent Garden in 1964 (again in Wozzeck), at La Scala in 1969, and at the Metropolitan Opera in 1970. The latter performance, as Adalgisa in Bellini's Norma was one of many performances with soprano Joan Sutherland.
Her signature roles include the title role of Handel's Rinaldo, Isabella in Rossini L'italiana in Algeri, Amneris in Verdi's Aida, and Carmen.
In recent years, Horne has concentrated on working with young singers, directing the vocal program at the Music Academy of the West and supporting promising artists through the Marilyn Horne Foundation.
Previous winners of the Gramophone lifetime achievement award include the London Symphony Orchestra, Leontyne Price, Mirella Freni, Victoria de los Angeles, Carlo Bergonzi, Isaac Stern, and Menahem Pressler.