Born in Budapest, he began taking piano lessons at the Budapest Academy of Music at the age of eight. When he was thirteen, he enrolled at the Budapest Conservatory and became a pupil of Klára Máthé. Subsequently he studied at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music, with his mentors Pál Kadosa and Ferenc Rados. Among his classmates were renowned pianists András Schiff and Zoltán Kocsis. From the time Ránki won first prize at the International Schumann Competition in Zwickau, he has had an international career performing in Europe, Scandinavia, the Soviet Union, the USA and Japan. He has played with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the Concertgebouw (Amsterdam), the Orchestre National de France under such conductors as Sir Georg Solti, Sándor Végh, Lorin Maazel, and Zubin Mehta. He was awarded twice the Kossuth Prize, the highest cultural award in Hungary.
- 1972 Grand Prix du Disque
- 1973 Liszt Prize
- 1978 Kossuth Prize
- 1982 Art Prize of City of Budapest
- 1984 Merited Artist
- 1988 Bartók-Pásztory Award
- 1990 Excellent Artist
- 2005 Prima Primissima Award
- 2006 Bartók Memorial Award (Herend)
- 2007 For Hungarian Art
- 2008 Kossuth Prize
- "Ránki Dezső". info.bmc.hu. Retrieved 2010-01-25.
- "Ránki Dezső" (in Hungarian). Liszt Ferenc Kamarazenekar (Liszt Ferenc Chamber Orchestra). Archived from the original on January 25, 2008. Retrieved 2010-01-25.
- "Dezső Ránki and Edit Klukon in London – The Christmas Concert hosted by the Hungarian Embassy and the Hungarian Cultural Centre". Embassy of the Republic of Hungary in London. Retrieved 2010-01-25.
- "Fulop Ranki".