At the age of twenty, Dezso Ránki played to an international gathering of impresarios and critics at Hungary’s 1971 Interforum and was immediately offered a date with the Berlin Philharmonic. He has given recitals at London’s Royal Festival Hall and the Kremlin Conservatory in Moscow and performed with many orchestras including the Berlin Philharmonic, the London Philharmonic and the Concertgebouw with conductors such as Georg Solti, Zubin Mehta and Václav Neumann.
At his London debut, in March 1973, Ránki played Schumann’s Fantasie in C major Op. 17, Liszt’s Piano Sonata in B minor, and Beethoven’s early Piano Sonata in A major. Joan Chissell wrote that ‘…his prodigious keyboard facility and natural musicianship were immediately apparent.’
Ránki’s repertoire includes Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert, the Romantics including Schumann, and Bartók and Kurtág. His style is one of incisive clarity, strong rhythmic underpinning and lack of sentimentality, facets which are particularly successful when applied to the music of Bartók and Stravinsky.
With his compatriot Zoltán Kocsis, Ránki recorded all the piano sonatas by Mozart for Hungaroton in 1978 and 1979. Ránki plays the early and middle-period sonatas, and Harold Schonberg, writing in the American Record Guide, summed up Ránki’s Mozart playing when he wrote, ‘There is a good deal of variety and color in Ránki’s Mozart, but it is always presented in the best of taste and imagination. You are never bored.’ Ránki has also recorded some of Mozart’s piano concertos for Hungaroton with the Liszt Chamber Orchestra and János Rolla. Other recordings for Hungaroton include Bartók’s Piano Concerto No. 3 with the Hungarian State Orchestra and János Ferencsik; Chopin’s Préludes Op. 28, the complete scherzos and Op. 10 Études; Schubert’s ‘Wanderer’ Fantasy D. 760 and Piano Sonata in G major D. 894; and some Haydn and Ravel. For Warner/Teldec, Ránki has recorded Bartók’s complete Mikrokosmos and Gyermekeknek, which were critically praised on their release. One of his best discs is of Stravinsky where he gives an accomplished and stunning performance of the Three Movements from Petrushka, Piano-Rag Music, Tango, Serenade in A and Sonata for Piano. Also on the compact disc are recordings of Bartók’s Suite Op. 14 and Im Freien. Ránki appears as a chamber music player on another disc from Teldec playing Mozart’s piano quartets with the Eder Quartet. Most of these recordings are from the late 1970s and early 1980s. At the end of 1990 Ránki recorded a Liszt recital for French Harmonia Mundi. It consists of an excellent account of the Piano Sonata in B minor and late pieces including Unstern!, Sancta Dorothea and Mephisto-Polka. Ránki gave memorable performances of these late works of Liszt and his Mephisto-Waltz No. 1 at a 1991 Bath Festival recital which commenced with Schubert’s Piano Sonata in A major D. 664. In 1972 Ránki was awarded the Grand Prix de l’Académie Charles Cros for a disc of Chopin. He has also received one of Hungary’s highest awards, the Kossuth Prize.