I have had these recordings since their initial release in the late eighties, and still enjoy them. Norrington not only took on the contraversial metronome marks head-on, but internalized them and the aesthetic world that they suggest: brash, impassioned, uncompromising. (Mostly uncompromising; Norrington said that he took the outer movements of the Eighth at a slightly slower tempo than indicated because he could not get the players to produce the performance that he could hear in his head.) And much to my liking in that.
That said, I must admit that these performances have lost a bit of the bloom off the rose. For one thing, they no longer stand alone: Gardiner, Zinman, and MacKerras have gone down the same path. And since then Norrington has had to compete with Norrington. Over the years I have heard the man perform many times in Los Angeles, and I also have a number of live performances. In each case Norrington live surpassed Norrington recorded. (With one exception. His recording of Beethoven's Second was every bit the match of his live performance with LA Phil.) Before a live audience there was flow, a songfulness, that he could not muster in these recordings, where he working very hard to document his ideas about the pieces. He was at his most careful and cautious in the Seventh and Ninth (that is to say, the pieces with the most complex rhythms); at his best in the Second, Third, and Fifth. I remeber one oddity about his conducting: he would alternate between using a baton and not. He would take up the stick in movements with a strong rhythmic push and put it down in movement with a strong lyrical flow. I found myself wishing that he had left that he had left the baton on the stand when he made his recordings.
I would recommend these recordings on balance, conscious of the fact that they do not reflect Norrington as his best. I do hope that someday Norrington re-records this music, or allows some live performances to find the light of day.