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He was born in Warsaw, Poland, and studied in Łódź, making his debut there at the age of 12 then enrolled at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik and studied with Artur Schnabel and Curt Boerner. In 1930 he won the Berlin International Piano Competition and obtained the prestigious Mendelssohn Prize in chamber music the following year with Roman Totenberg. In 1932 he made a tour of the United States with Yehudi Menuhin. With the rise of the Nazis, Balsam settled in New York City, where he became the accompanist of choice for international artists, including Henri Temianka, with whom he performed twice in 1945 at Carnegie Hall, Zino Francescatti, David Oistrakh, Leonid Kogan, Oscar Shumsky, Isaac Stern, Zara Nelsova, Joseph Fuchs, Lillian Fuchs, Michael Rabin, Ida Haendel, Mstislav Rostropovich, Nathan Milstein, Roman Totenberg, among many others. He became the undisputed dean of chamber music performance and teaching in the United States, and also performed occasional solo recitals."
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