Writings on the socio-cultural complexities of Mahler’s identity and his music in context vary in relation to four basic motifs: his Jewishness; his Germanness; the partly Slav environment of his early years; and his relationship to the Austro-Hungar-ian Dual Monarchy. Studies combine these elements, or privilege one above another. It may help to rethink this subject if we consider that his self-awareness formed amid a changing social environment; if his personal identity will be studied in the context of the identity history of his family; and through scrutinizing the decisive socializing role of the localities in which he lived. These conclusions can reveal the unparalleled mobility of his career in a rapidly-transforming context. Late nineteenth-century Central European societies drew at once on the “past” (post-feudal, pre-modern attitudes and practices), “present” (constitutionalism based on equal civilian rights, and nationalism), and “future” (populist and racist ideologies questioning the enlightened, liberal consensus). All three impacted not only Mahler’s identity, but his image: how the surrounding society perceived him. These approaches also facilitate critical readings of the contemporaneous attempts to embed Mahler’s music in national, regional, and ethno-cultural contexts. This paper examines the reception of the third movement of Symphony No. 1 as a case study, exploring how Mahler’s construed images were reflected in different interpretations of this music.