BEETHOVEN: Cello Sonatas, Vol. II: G Minor Op. 5 No. 2; C Major Op. 102 No. 1; Horn Sonata in F Major, Op. 17 – Bjorn Solum, cello/ Steinar Granmo Nilsen, natural horn/ Kristin Fossheim, fortepiano – 2L multichannel SACD 079-SACD, 55 mins. [Distr. by Naxos] *****: 
Following immediately on the heels of a tepid performance of Beethoven’s G Minor Cello Sonata, the brutish opening calls of the French horn in the Op. 17 Sonata, with natural horn specialist Steinar Granmo Nilsen doing the honors on a copy of an 1820 Raoux, strikes an intrusively aggressive note in Beethoven’s personality.
Nilsen is one of those French horn types who believes that cracking a fortissimo note every now and then, and making the stopped and unstopped notes as different as possible, is in accord with what Beethoven considered poetry. Nevertheless, he delivers his own sturdy brand of beautiful music making with such conviction, unique expressive and emotional power that 2L’s engineering team could not have been handed a more perfect vehicle for their award-winning work.
Sonically speaking, the Sonata’s melodramatic opening bars could easily become a mantra for honesty and accuracy in systems which audiophiles use to hear what the music sounded like in the recording studio–as technology is increasingly enabling audiophiles to do, and which 2L was purposed to do.
Recorded in the Norwegian Academy of Music in Oslo, the 2L sound is breathtaking in the Horn Sonata and also in the C Major Cello Sonata, on which Solum mounts a brave ascent. The sound of Fossheim’s instrument, a Paul McNulty copy of a 1790 Walter, is particularly sweet and effectively voiced. As you would expect, the sound is incomparably rich and fine in 5.1 surround, and no less fine but somewhat less rich in hi-res stereo.
—Laurence Vittes